What is a Mala and How Do I Use One?

Malas have become a popular tool in the yoga world these days. The reason is not just because they are beautiful to wear, but also because they really work!

If you are not sure what a mala is, I sometimes describe it as a rosary, but for yogis. You usually find them with 108 beads plus one guru bead at the end. Why are there 108 beads? Because it is a sacred number in the yoga world. Mathematicians of Vedic culture believed 108 was a number of the wholeness of existence. The extra guru bead is a representation that you have all the knowledge you need inside you. A tassel is at the end of the guru bead and it represents the lotus flower.

Malas (also called mala beads or prayer beads) could have a very powerful effect on the mind, body, and spirit. They are used to help increase focus and concentration and possibly activate a healing response by lowering heart rate and reducing blood pressure. Using a mala could help reduce stress and balance one’s emotions.

Malas help bring in wisdom and depth.

The stones used for the mala have meaning too. Wood beads usually have a grounding quality. Howlite reduces stress and anxiety. Unakite helps heals old wounds and bring protection. Diamond cut beads can amplify the energetic property of the crystal. By mixing and matching the types of beads you can create different energies. Whatever you choose, it’s a powerful tool to help your meditation practice.

Using a mala during meditation can help with focus and make the process easier because it gets you to “do something.”. How awesome is that? To use a mala, take the first bead next to the guru bead between the thumb and index finger. Pull the bead towards you one by one. With each bead, chant your favorite mantra or just be mindful of each exhale and inhale. There are a lot more ways to use a mala, including which finger, which mantra, which beads, but the way just described is a good starting point.

How do I choose the right mala?

You can use muscle testing to choose by running your hand over them to sense which one feels right for you. You could also research each type of stone and the meaning behind each one. Some people have used a Vedic astrologer to look at your chart and give you a prescription. The best way to choose your mala is this: It is the one you keep being drawn to.

When looking at malas online or in person, it is the one you keep going back to and looking at. It’s really just that simple. If you are reading this, practice yoga and meditate, you have enough intuition to decide for yourself. Your intuition has been developed to know what is right for you. Choosing your mala is like making any choice in life: Trust yourself, you know what you need.

Hopefully you have learned a little more about malas, how to pick the right one for you and find that using your mala during meditation enriches the experience.

About the Author 
Alyson Atma Simms has been teaching yoga since 2007 and has a background in Art Education. Her malas by Atma’s Offerings can be found in YogaWorks retail shops. She also teaches the Mala Making workshops at YogaWorks.


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