What are Mala Beads and How do you use them?

July 28, 2017 / Wellness Tools

What is a Mala?


Have you ever noticed those beaded necklaces people are wearing in yoga class? A lot of studios sell them and they make a cute accessory, but many people don’t know for what they are used. During meditation, people use them to keep track of how many times they have chanted or the number of breaths they have taken. Depending on who you ask, they all have a different meaning or purpose. They also have different symbolism based on the material from which they are made, color, and length. Mala beads come in a string of 18, 27, 54, or 108.

Some people say 1 stands for God, the universe or your own highest truth, 0 stands for emptiness and humility in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity and timelessness. There are 108 Upanishads (the sacred texts), 108 sacred sites throughout India, and there are 108 sacred sites of the body called marma points. Further, 108 lines of energy that unite to form the heart chakra one of energy line lead to the crown chakra and symbolize self-realization. For a more sciency reason, the sun’s diameter is 108 times that of the diameter of the Earth, while the Sun to Earth distance is 108 times the sun’s diameter. So, you can really pick the meaning that speaks more to you. It can be religious, or not as long, as you find meaning in the malas.


Other parts of the mala that have a different meaning:


The Tassel: Like most things on a mala, it can have multiple meanings. Many people agree that the tassel represents the connection we have with a high power and the ability to come together as one.

The Guru Bead: (Main bead at the end of the mala) Represents the student-teacher relationship in the practice of meditation. The guru is one who helps begin your journey. In certain traditions, it is said that you should never cross the guru bead. If you get to the end of your mala and want to keep going, you simply turn the mala around and go back the way you came.


Picking a Mala.

Finding the right mala to fit your needs can be tricky. Because different colors, materials, and lengths symbolize different things, it can be overwhelming to know which one will be right for you. Traditional materials are used, such as rudraksha seed, bodhi seed, or yak bone. These are typically the more affordable malas. Many malas are made out of precious gemstones that can help when sliding them through your fingers during meditation. Weight is something else to consider when purchasing a mala. You want a weight that is going to feel comfortable in your hands and that won’t be a distraction when you are chanting. I think the biggest thing to consider is what you want your mala to be made from because that can really translate it into your meditation practice. Each material can radiate a different feeling.


Your mala could be made with one or more of these materials:


Amazonite: calm, alleviating anxiety and fear


Amethyst: peace, stability, and calm


Black Onyx: alignment and connection


Carnelian: abundance, prosperity, and ambition


Chalcedony: stability, harmony, and dreams


Citrine: happiness, strength, and thought


Clear Quartz: energy, creativity, and clarity


Dalmation Jasper: determination, strength, and friendship


Garnet: energy, chakra, and balance


Green Aventurine: new beginning and prosperity


Haulite: calm, spiritual, and third eye


Lapis Lazuli: wisdom, intuition, and third eye


Moonstone: intuition, dreams, and energy


Obsidian: protection and grounding


Ocean Jasper: relaxation, self-love, and calm


Pearl: purity, innocence, and imagination


Prehnite: energy, spirit, and communication


Pyrite: fire energy, and vitality


Red Jasper: grounding, balance, and healing


Rhodonite: Yin, Yang, and love


Rose Quartz: love, harmony, and heart chakra


Rosewood: protection and spirituality


Rudraksha Seeds: healing and guidance


Sandalwood: calm and desire


Smokey Quartz: grounding and stabilizing


Turquoise: truth, grounding, and protection


White Jade: potential, goals, and success

So, there are plenty of options to inspire a mala and get you exactly what you need for your meditation practice. Most people have more than one and change them depending on what they need.


How to use:

Typically used during meditation to count the number of times you have chanted a mantra, I have also known people to use them to keep track of their breath work.

To do a mala meditation, you must first pick a mantra that you want to recite:


  1. Om
  2. Om gam ganapataye namah (removal obstacles)
  3. Sat Nam (meaning: true identity)
  4. Ong Namo Guru Dav Namo (I bow to all that is)
  5. Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung (Sun, Moon, Earth, Infinity, All that is in infinity, I am Thee.)

Find a comfortable seat for meditation and hold your mala in your first bead gently on the middle or ring finger of your right hand. To start, place your thumb on the bead next to the guru bead (the large bead at the base of the mala); then you have a choice: to recite a mantra or not. You can also use your mala to count the number of breath cycles you take. At the end of the mantra or breath cycle, push the mala bead away with your thumb and move onto the next bead. Remember, if you want to keep going, don’t cross over the guru bead; just turn the mala around and go back the way you came.

Mala’s are a wonderful tool that can be really beneficial during a meditation practice. While they do make cute accessories, they can also take your meditation practice to the next level.