A Mala is made up of a specific number of beads. It is used during meditation in conjunction with chanting a mantra. Similar to how Catholics use a Rosary to say ‘Hail Mary’s,’ a Mala is used to count the repetition of mantras. They can also be used to count your breaths while meditating.
A full Mala usually has 108 beads, with shorter Malas having 27 or even 9 beads. They often also have a larger bead, called a Guru bead – often attached to a tassel. This bead helps you to recognize when you have completed a cycle of 108 chants of a specific mantra or completed 108 cycles of breaths. Mala beads can be made from a variety of materials, including pearls and other semi-precious stones. More traditional Malas are made from sandalwood or rudraksha seeds. 108 is a sacred number in Hinduism, and it is believed that chanting a mantra 108 times harnesses the full power of the mantra. According to traditional beliefs, there are 108 energy lines that lead to the heart chakra. There are also 108 stages in the human journey.
You can use a Mala combined with breathwork or the chanting of mantras to achieve more profound meditation. The chanting of the mantra not only invites that energy into your space but also helps to keep your mind focused and anchors you in the present moment. The same happens when you use a Mala to count your breaths. It allows you to tune in entirely to the present. To meditate with a Mala, string the mantra in your hand with the first bead after the Guru bead resting on your index finger. Recite the first repetition of your mantra. Once you are done, use your thumb to gently slide the Mala along, stopping when the second bead reaches your index finger. You can use your thumb to lightly hold the Mala in place.
When you have worked your way around your Mala and end and the Guru bead, you can mentally bow to the Guru bead and give thanks. Then restart a new cycle of chanting, moving in the opposite direction – away from the Guru bead. Because the Guru bead is seen as representing the higher power, tradition holds that you should not move over the Guru bead.
Malas usually find their way to their owners. When you are looking to purchase a Mala, follow your intuition and internal guidance as the one that speaks to you is the one that will bring you the energy that you need and seek. Using a Mala during meditation can help you achieve a deeper meditative state and cultivate more mindfulness. The use of a Mala during meditation can be beneficial whether you use it along with chanting a mantra or to direct your focus on your breath.