For several years now, mala beads have been a popular accessory in modern yoga and meditation practice as a spiritual object for focusing the mind and as a form of jewelry. Mala beads have been used since at least the 10th century by monks and gurus in their meditation practice in the East. A mala is a strand of 108, 54, 27, or 21 beads used to keep count of mantras, breaths, or affirmations during a meditation sit.
How to Use Mala Beads
You can use a mala in many ways. Some practitioners choose to use their mala beads in a traditional context, passing over each bead for a full in-breath and out-breath during a meditation sit for a count of 108. Other practitioners like to use their mala beads as spiritual object that they wear during yoga and meditation, which they can then wear off the mat as a reminder of their practice. Finally, some people like to place their mala beads in their home as a sacred object. Regardless of which way people choose to use their mala beads, this object can act as a centering tool, reminding you of your yoga and meditation practice.
Types of Mala Beads
There are many types of mala beads on the market. Traditional pieces are made from rudraksha seeds, Bodhi seeds, tulsi beads, and rosewood. Gemstone mala beads are also used, and historically were reserved for monks. The benefits of choosing a gemstone mala, is that you can match the meaning of the gemstones with the goals of your practice. For example, if you are working on compassion in your practice, a mala made from turquoise mala beads can help with the energetic shift and retraining of the mind. Gemstone mala beads come in a wide variety of stones such as tiger eye, black onyx, moonstone, and rose quartz, to name a few. From an aesthetic perspective, if you wish to wear your mala beads off the mat, you can choose a gemstone in a color family to match your color preferences.
There are also custom mala beads. Some mala manufacturers allow you to select all of your beads to design a mala instantaneously. Other makers of mala beads will take the time to work with you, on a one-to-one basis, and will evaluate the best type of mala for your practice and give you design guidance.
Choosing a Quality Mala
When purchasing mala beads it is important to consider quality. If you are buying a gemstone mala, find a maker that uses A or AB grade gemstones. The quality of gemstones will affect the durability of the piece in the long term. It is also important to choose a mala made on appropriate stringing material. Durable mala beads will be made on braided cord, premium stretch string or durable wire. Finally, mala bead makers should have a product guarantee and be willing to repair your mala if it breaks.
If you have any questions about purchasing a mala please contact the author.
Jacqueline Medalye is the designer and owner of Salt Spring Malas and Yoga Jewelry. She has been practicing yoga for 10 years and she has been making beaded jewelry for over 20 years. After traveling throughout India she began making malas. Jacqueline feels that Salt Spring Malas is her path of right livelihood given her passion for yoga, beads and jewelry design.