Do you wear mala beads during your yoga practice?
In my recent “Peaceful Practice” posts, I’ve look at what science has to say about yoga (including “detox” twists and yoga-as-antidepressant), and while I value a scientific perspective on just about everything, the reason I’m so into yoga is because it grants me something beyond the merely tangible. Yoga is a kind of poetry, a kind of magic. And I want to give due credit to that aspect of the practice as well as yoga’s more quantifiable benefits. Enter my curiosity in mala beads.
I first became interested in mala beads when I was researching a piece on spiritual jewelry (for one of my other writing ventures). Although I don’t own mala beads, these necklaces continue to stand out as an elegant way to personalize your spiritual journey, so I decided to learn more and share what I found with the dumpling community.
What Are Mala Beads?
Generally speaking, mala beads are created to enhance your spiritual practice and serve as a reminder of your intentions. Mala beads are necklaces with 3000+ years of roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, and, more recently, yoga asana practice.
Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning “meditation garland.” These meditation garlands were originally used in a particular style of meditation called Japa in which a mantra is softly repeated 108 times. (A mantra is a word or phrase that helps the practitioner focus on a certain intention or idea.)
Accordingly, mala beads have 108 beads—and often a 109th bead is a large crystal or semi-precious stone at the center of the necklace, which serves an additional spiritual purpose (like crystal healing). There is said to be 108 reasons why there are 108 beads on mala garland. Here are just a few:
–There are 108 earthly desires.
–There are 108 goddesses.
–There are 108 Upanishads, texts of wisdom composed by ancient sages.
–There is said to be 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra. One of these energy lines, Sushumna, leads to the crown chakra, the path of self-realization.
–There are 108 marma points (sacred points on the body).
— The average distance of the sun and the moon to earth is 108 times their respective diameters.
Heal Yourself Mala, Blooming Lotus
Choosing Your Mala
Selection of your mala beads should be intuitive. After all, you want to enjoy holding and looking at your mala beads. As Diana House, the founder of Tiny Devotions explains,
“Things that you are attracted to are an integral part of your healing process. Whether it be a beautiful landscape, a cute animal or a gorgeous mala; stop and take a moment to observe the things you find beautiful. Develop your own personal aesthetic. Meditate on this and strive to see beauty in everything. Surrounding yourself with beautiful and uplifting things is very powerful.”
You may also want to consider the spiritual properties assigned to the bead materials. For example, rose quartz is believed to inspire love of all kinds while lava is said to promote strength in times of adversity. You may also want to consider which stone corresponds to particular chakras. For example, lemon quartz, a pale yellow quartz, is associated with the solar plexus, the seat of our self-worth according to chakra philosophy. In the end, however, it really comes down what you are attracted to—or maybe you won’t have to choose your mala beads at all! Maybe they will choose you.
I Am Strong Mala with lava beads, Mala Collective
Using Mala Beads in Your Yoga Practice (on and off the Mat)
It is recommended that you wear your mala for at least 40 consecutive days to form a bond with it. Because mala beads are believed to absorb energy, they need to be regularly “cleansed.” You can expose your mala to sun or moonlight for a few hours or burn white sage near your mala.
There is no right or wrong way to use your mala beads in your spiritual practice. In seated meditation, wear your mala beads around your neck or clasp them firmly in your hands. Alternatively, you can chant your mantra 108 times, touching one stone after the next as you state the mantra. During yoga, you can place your mala near the top of your mat to remind yourself of the intentions you set for your practice. Alternatively, you may be able to wrap your mala beads around your wrist (kind of like stacked bracelets). Even if you don’t use your beads in your practice on the mat, you can wear them around during the day, allowing them to inspire you during stressful moments.
Do you use mala beads in your spiritual practice? How did you discover the right mala beads for you?
Related: 4 Ways to Improve Your Intuition
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Photo: Tiny Devotions, Blooming Lotus, Mala Collective