A mala is a single strand of beads used to keep track of how many times you’ve repeated a mantra, prayer, or other positive affirmation. Malas are also used to count breaths or series of yoga poses. Mala beads are also called mantra beads, meditation beads, Hindu rosaries, or Buddhist prayer beads. If you want to see all types of mala collection search this article…
A yoga mala is tied to the ancient tradition of doing 108 sun salutations each day, usually performed during seasonal change periods. A mala is so much more than just a tracker. Malas are spiritual tools found in yogic or Buddhist meditation. There are multiple types of malas: necklace mala, half mala, and wrist mala.
Necklace males are the most common and can have the guru bead (also referred to as a teacher, Meru, or mountain bead) down by your heart or behind the neck. If you have additional embellishments such as symbolic focal or tassels, they would be hidden if worn the second way. Half malas are often worn as necklaces. Wrist Malas are worn as bracelets. Who can also wear necklaces and half miles on the wrist by wrapping them?
You don’t have to be Buddhist, Hindu, or a yogi to use malas.
The concept of chanting, saying repeated words, or tracking spiritual repetitions has a presence in many cultures worldwide throughout the centuries.
For example, prayer beads, rosary beads, and worry beads have been considered types of malas. The Catholic rosary is said to have been created during the 9th Century in Ireland and is used to keep track of particular prayers.
What is the Purpose of a Mala?
There are multiple benefits to mala beads, whether you want to make and sell them to others or make and wear them yourself. The purpose of a mala is to:
- Function as an anchor and increase focus, especially during Japa meditation or yoga.
- Count mantras (Japa meditation) or prayers
- Promote inherent healing and metaphysical energies through physical contact with specific gemstones
- Help determine goals and focus your intentions, especially if you have different males with different significances, such as a mala dedicated to stress relief and another when you need a boost in confidence.
- Uplift and encourage with a beautiful piece of jewelry that is a reminder for the wearer of their intentions and goals even when not performing yoga or meditating
How to Use a Mala
Traditionally, a mala is used in an easy sitting pose such as the hero or half lotus. A quiet room with dim or soft lighting typically works best for maximum concentration. Hold the mala in your right hand draped over your middle finger, and use your thumb to touch and hurry along with the Japa mala beads.
Don’t let your index finger connect the dots since it can represent the ego, which is the greatest obstacle in attaining enlightenment. Start on a bead next to the guru bead. The guru bead is not meant to be touched or counted during the meditation. Close your eyes or allow your vision to not focus specifically on something in the room.
Say your mantra out loud or mentally, and then pull the next bead towards you. If you’re using a half or wrist mala, you’ll need to repeat through the dots, but don’t pass over the guru bead. Instead, flip the mala over and begin again or go back to the direction you came from.
The more often you meditate with a mala, the more your mala beads can absorb the vibrations. This is thought to allow then the dots to amplify the energy they reflect during use.
How Many Beads in a Mala?
There are 108 beads in a traditional mala. Half malas have 54 beads, and wrist malas have many beads as long as they can be multiplied to equal 108. Why do males have 108 beads?
108 has been a powerful number in India for centuries.
- Vedic mathematicians estimated the sun’s diameter is 108 times larger than the Earth’s diameter.
- Vedic mathematicians also estimated the sun and Earth’s distance to be 108 times the sun’s diameter.
- There are 108 sacred texts of the Upanishads in the yogic tradition.
- There are 108 pithas (sacred holy sites) in India.
- There are 108 marma points or junctures on the body where two or more tissues meet. Marma points represent more than physical connection and are considered points of vital life force.
- In the Bhakti yoga tradition, there are 108 gopis dancing with Krishna in Vrindavan.
- There are 108 names for the goddess Krsna (Krishna)
- In tantric yoga, 108 energy lines in the body converge at the heart chakra.
- Said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals
- 9 and 12 are other sacred numbers: 9×12 = 108
What Beads Are Used in Malas?
The most common beads used in males are wood, seeds, or semiprecious gemstones. For example, in India, it’s common to find malas made with sandalwood and rudraksha seeds.
In Nepal, you could discover males that incorporate bodhi seeds and lotus seeds. The materials you choose to use play a large part in your mala’s energy, spirit, and healing beliefs. The beads are most commonly 6mm, 8mm, or 10mm rounds. Of course, you can choose whatever size works best for you.
Bigger beads can help with counting, especially if you’re new to Japa meditation, but it does result in a much larger mala. Mala beads can all be the exact gemstone, or you can choose several to focus on particular chakras, desired healing results, or special meaning.
Other Materials in Malas
Small metal spacers between each bead or other decorative beads can be included for aesthetic purposes but are not counted during the meditation. In some countries, knots are placed between each bead on a mala to protect the beads from clacking against each other.
Cotton, nylon, hemp, or silk are the most common stringing materials used for males, easy to knot. Lastly, males are often finished with a tassel made from the same stringing material as the mala. Other adornments are up to you!
How to Pick Bead for Use in a Mala
Which mala beads should you use? The meaning of mala beads is unique to each Creator of mala jewelry and those who wear malas. First, you need to determine what goals are most important to you, areas of your life you want to focus on or improve, and difficulties you’re facing. Be specific in your determinations to make it easier to find the perfect gemstone(s) for a mala full of intent. Some ideas on how to pick mala beads include:
- Metaphysical Mala
The belief that gemstones carry energy is the basis of choosing beads based on metaphysical qualities. According to practitioners of crystal healing, gemstones have power or energy vibrations to help direct spiritual and sometimes physical changes such as healing. See some common metaphysical traits and their associated gems*, though this is far from a complete list of what you could choose from. For more detailed information, read the ”Metaphysical Properties” article.*Please note that all metaphysical or healing properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat medical conditions. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads® does not guarantee the validity of any of these statements.
2. Chakra Mala
Chakras are centers of energy in the human body associated with various traits. There are different schools of beliefs regarding the number of chakras, but a commonly accepted 7-chakra system begins at the top of your head and ends at your feet. For more detailed information, read the ”Chakras and Their Gemstones” article.
3. Zodiac Mala
Choosing mala beads based on your zodiac is based on your birth date, but not necessarily your birthstone–which, of course, you’re still welcome to use. Zodiac gemstones, also called astral stones, represent your astrological sign and respond particularly well to specific stones. There are also planetary stones stemming from an ancient belief that gems have associations with planets, and consequently, the signs have ruling planets. Talismanic stones are said to give additional protection and powers. These stones must be cut or engraved with the zodiac sign. Read ”Birthstone Jewelry” for more detailed information on birthstones specifically, ”12 and 12 More: Alternate Choices for Birthstones” to explore other birthstone options and ”Astrological and Zodiac Jewelry” for more about designing with your zodiac in mind.
4. Color Mala
Color alone can be enough of a reason to select a gemstone for use in males. According to color psychology, humans have subconscious reactions to color. Of course, if a color is your favorite, you may be affected slightly differently from someone else, but some general associations are painted. Choose your favorite color or choose gemstones based on qualities you’d like to encourage and amplify.
How to Design a Mala
Now it’s time to plan the rest of the mala design. As mentioned previously, tassels are standard but not required. Or, you can attach focal components with symbolism to the tassel or add a large gemstone before the tassel.
You can flat out replace the tassel with a large focal, bead, etc. Popular components included with malas are the Hamsa Hand, lotus flower, and Om symbol.
All three of these have strong symbolic ties to Buddhism or Hinduism, making them especially complementary for males. You can learn more about these and more iconography in the ”Cultural Symbols in Jewelry” chart.
Additional suggestions of symbols to consider using include:
- Angel Wings:
- Angels are representative of love, support, protection, healing, and guidance. This creates a nice bridge with the fact prayer beads are related to malas.
- Buddha – The “awakened one” or “enlightened one” said to have discovered Dharma. There are two visual representations of Buddha. The Swarovski crystal Buddha pendant drops are particularly gorgeous.
- Butterflies – Butterfly connotations of transformation, rebirth, the soul, freedom, inspiration, and openness fit well with many mantras.
- These insects typically represent the wisdom of change, adaptability, self-realization, and emotional maturity.
- These noble creatures are revered in many cultures while representing pure beauty, strength, and wisdom in Buddhism.
- Feather – Connotations of spiritual evolution, transcendence, and particularly revered by Native Americans as a symbol of honor and connection to the Creator, trust, strength, and freedom.
- Goddess – A beautiful symbol that is empowering for women especially. The ancient goddess symbol represents love and fertility. Consider metaphysical properties of goddess gemstone vocals to give your mala even more direct focus here.
- Tree of Life:
- A symbol found in cultures worldwide representing growth and connections such as spirituality and family. A character sometimes seen used with Hamsa Hands and depictions of Buddha, too.
- Represents the concept of progression, action, and connection. This and other Celtic symbols would also be an exciting merging of cultures since the first rosary did come from Ireland.
Find what speaks to you!
How to Make a Mala
Gather your materials: stringing material, beads, guru bead, scissors, tassel, and any extra charms, pendants, or embellishments you want to include.
Cut a 5-foot length of cord for a traditional 108 bead mala using 6mm or 8mm size beads. If using larger beads or incorporating spacer beads between the mala beads, give yourself more cord to work with.
Tie off one end of the cord, leaving a 5- to 8-inch tail that will later be used as the tassel or a connection point for your other adornments.
String your beads in the order you desire, knotting between each or adding your spacer beads.
A bead knotting tool such as The Bead Knotter™ would help make quick work of knots. View the ”Secrets to Using a Bead Knotting Tool” how-to video for tips and tricks.
Using the two ends of your cord, tie a simple knot to complete the circle. It’s recommended to use a dab of G-S Hypo Cement® to ensure the knot is secure.
Add your guru bead. If using a T-drilled bead, this can be tricky. Reference the ”Fire Mountain Fix: T-Drilled Beads” how-to video for a tip on getting this crucial mala component strung.
Attach your tassel or additional embellishments by threading both cord’s ends through the loops or stringing holes. You can use existing tassels or make your own with the Beadalon tassel maker. This how-to video, ”How to Create Tassels Using the Beadalon Tassel Maker,” shows the steps.
Snip off any extraneous cording.
Don’t Forget Your Mantra.
If you’re designing a mala for yourself, it’s helpful to think of your mantra while planning. Start saying your mantra as you create the mala, infusing the beads with your intent early on. If making malas for other people, you’re welcome to have mantras in mind.
Display the mala with the mantra or intention of the particular mala you created to let customers know the mala design’s focus. If you chose specific beads and materials for a reason, attach a little tag explaining the significance.
Customers will love looking through the malas to find the right one that speaks to them.
What is a Mantra Anyway?
Mantras are prayers, phrases, words, or even sounds. As stated earlier, these can be said aloud or mentally as you focus on achieving more profound states of consciousness during meditation and yoga. The Om symbol, also Aum, is a perfect example of a mantra many people are familiar with. Om is a primordial sound of the universe that represents the cosmic beginning of creation in Hinduism.
What Are Common Mantras?
Anything can be a mantra! Find what speaks to YOU. Try positive affirmations and statements of worth.
Some chakras may respond particularly well to specific mantras, such as (but not limited to) the seven “bija mantras.” Bija means “seed,” and these single-syllable sounds are believed to activate specific chakra energy:
- Crown chakra: Om
- Third Eye chakra: Om
- Throat chakra: Ham
- Heart chakra: Yam
- Solar Plexus chakra: Ram
- Sacral chakra: Vam
- Root chakra: Lam
Some popular mantras* are:*If spelling, pronunciation, or meanings are not perfectly accurate, please allow for some translation errors.
What if My Mala Breaks?
If your mala breaks, it’s not a bad thing. There’s no ill omen or negative energy that results from a broken mala. This is often viewed positively since it means you’ve been regularly using your mala with purpose and intent.
The breaking of the mala can be considered a physical representation of breakthroughs and a sign of progress. You can always string the mala again and continue as before or change the beads in your mala to adjust for a new or modified meditation.