You’ve probably seen these but may not know what they are used for. Mala beads, also known as prayer beads, are a traditional tool that have been used for thousands of years. Malas are typically made with 18, 27, 54 or 108 beads. Though malas are traditionally used in yoga and the Hinduism and Buddhism religions, prayer beads are also used in other religious traditions such as Christianity (rosary), Islam (dhikr), Sikhism and Baha’i faiths for prayers, chants and devotions. More than two-thirds of the world use prayer beads to aid in spiritual practices.
Malas for Meditation
Malas are particularly helpful for individuals who may have trouble with meditation. If you’re a beginner or your mind seems to run wild when you attempt to meditate, try using mala beads and focusing on a particular mantra to help you stay focused. Chose a mantra that is your intention and purpose for the meditation. You can choose a word, phrase or even an affirmation if you want to improve upon a belief system. As long as you choose a positive mantra, there is no wrong way to do this. It is believed that you can rewire your brain to embody the positive qualities of your mantra during meditation.
Using your thumb and middle finger, hold one of the the beads next to the large “guru” bead and say your mantra. Move your fingers to the next bead on the necklace, saying your mantra again. Continue to repeat until you reach the guru bead. Your mala’s guru bead signifies a time reflect before you end your meditation.
Also, if you are finding yourself stumbling through group mantras in yoga class, check out this article for popular mantras: Yoga Journal
Why 108 beads?
In Tibetan Buddhism, malas with 108 beads are used. There is great significance in the number 108 in many traditions. Here are some examples:
- The Sun’s diameter is 108 times that of the diameter of the Earth, and the Sun to Earth distance is 108 times the Sun’s diameter.
- There are 108 lines of energy that converge to form the heart chakra.
- In yogic tradition – 108 Upanishads (the sacred texts), 108 sacred sites throughout India, and 108 marma points, which are the sacred sites of the body.
- In Vaishnavism Hinduism – 108 gopis were dancing with Krishna in Vrindavan.
- In Jewish tradition – 108 is a multiple of 18, which is the number connected to the Hebrew word chai. Chai translates to life or alive.
- In Islam – 108 refers to God.
- In Vedic culture – mathematicians believed that 108 was the number of existence.
Malas made with real stone can be expensive. I personally get mine from Mala Prayer. Their malas are some of the more affordable ones on the market, and they donate 20% of profits to women entrepreneurs through Kiva, a non-profit lending organization. The beads featured in this post are from their website.