What are mala necklaces?
Mala necklaces are a beautiful string of beads, often gemstones, that are traditionally worn to assist with meditation. They are also worn as a unique piece of jewellery that also serves as a gentle reminder of your daily focus or intention.
The word ‘mala’ translates to ‘garland’ in Sanskrit and they are the perfect adornment.
A traditional full length mala necklace has 108 beads, but shorter three-quarter and half-length malas are also available. These work well for shorter mediations and also just look great for every day wear.
For thousands of years mala necklaces have been used by Buddhists and Hindus during prayer and meditation. Men and women all over the world now wear malas for meditation, mindfulness and yoga practice. With each bead a mantra or prayer is repeated to a total of 108 times. In yoga, 108 salutations to the sun can be counted with the beads on a mala.
Why 108 beads?
The number 108 is considered a sacred number in many religions and spiritual practices. Renowned mathematicians of Vedic (ancient Hindu) culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth – the average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.
The parts of a mala
A traditional mala necklace has 108 same size beads with a knot between each one. The knots separate the beads allowing each one to be handled individually. They also help the mala to hang easily and gracefully on the body. The act of hand-knotting a mala necklace takes time and focus – much the same as the practice of using a mala for meditation.
The types of gemstones used in the mala each hold a particular significance. Many people like to select their necklace according to the properties of the gemstones. Find out more about the meanings of gemstones here.
The mala necklace has a larger bead called a guru bead where each end of the circle meets, this is often followed by a decorative tassel or pendant. It may also have different shape marker beads positioned through the string to help the wearer keep track of their progress through the meditation practice. Other beads area also sometimes included purely for decoration.
How do you use a mala necklace for meditation?
Decide what mantra you want to use for your meditation. A mantra is a short positive phrase that you will repeat over again whilst you meditate. It will help to focus your mind and set your intention. The mala will be your counting tool and help you to feel grounded and focussed through the practice.
Hold your mala necklace in your dominant hand, and starting with the bead next to the guru bead use your other middle finger and thumb to touch one bead at a time whilst you repeat your mantra. Keep going until you reach the guru bead again after 108 recitations. If you wish to meditate for longer go back around the necklace in the direction you have just come from rather than crossing over the guru bead.
Breath gently and in sync with your mantra recitation. Don’t worry if your mind wanders, just acknowledge your thoughts, then kindly bring your focus back to your meditation and carry on. This is all part of the practice.
How do you use a mala necklace for intention setting?
Intention setting can be a very powerful way to promote positive thoughts and energy into your daily life. Malas are a beautiful piece of jewellery to wear every day and they can be used as a tactile tool to provide focus and direction.
Start your day by setting an intention such as “I am calm” or “I am loving towards others”. As you go about your day let your mala be a gentle reminder of your intention when you look down at it or touch its cool smooth gemstone beads.