Sometimes we need a simple reminder to breathe, to slow down, to be present.
Mala’s, meaning garland in Sanskrit the ancient script of India, are a beautiful piece of jewellery to be worn around your neck or wrapped around your wrist. But they also serve as an amazing tool to assist with meditation. Also known as Mala beads, they act as reminders and catalysts for not only living your intention but to breathe, slow down and to be present.
While traditionally Mala beads were created as a meditation tool in the practical sense, they are also created with healing gemstones making them a beautiful gift from nature to bring emotional balance and support to the mind and body.
Wherever you are on your meditation journey, Mala beads and Mantra’s are a great tool to help focus your attention. They provide something tactile to come back to when your mind starts to wander, which will undoubtedly happen! Rolling the beads through your fingers is a physical way to connect with your breath, direct your energy and attention and a gentle reminder to remain grounded and focused (see below for a step by step process on how to meditate with your Mala and my favourite Mantra’s)
The Anatomy of the Mala and Why 108 Beads?
The anatomy of the Mala is significant and meaningful for a japa nada (Mantra) meditation practice:
- The 108 beads in a necklace loop evokes a sense of beginning, continuing and completion.
- The knot between each gemstone allows you to chant your Mantra and keep track of the count.
- Between the tassel and necklace loop there is one single bead, known as the guru or teacher bead which allows time for reflection and gratitude.
- The tassel represents an end point, signifying a full cycle of meditation.
Why 108 Beads?
The number 108 has significance for so many reasons, open to interpretation by the user:
- Some believe there are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul.
- One of our favourite explanations is related to the chakras, the seven energy points in the body. It has been said there are 108 energy lines connecting to the heart, with one of them believed to be the path to self-realisation.
- Members of the Vedic tradition see this number as denoting the wholeness of the universe: one represents the solar masculine, zero represents the lunar feminine and eight represents the infinite nature of all thing
- Many choose to recite their mantra in Sanskrit, the 54-letter alphabet consisting of both a feminine and masculine version so totalling 108.
- The number 108 is favoured by mathematicians for its countless patterns and potential divisions.
The Benefits of Mantra Meditation
The benefits of Mantra meditation are the same as the benefits of any other type of meditation technique. The Mantra is simply used as an anchor to help settle and focus your mind. This is especially helpful if you have an overactive mind, like me. It is also used to allow the affirmation, the intention, the belief to solidify within the body and mind.
Mantras can be Sanskrit words, ‘I am’ statements or sounds (like Om) which are repeated or chanted 108 times in japa meditation as an object of concentration. The vibrational quality of the Mantra sound currents are thought to help attune the mind and body leaving you feeling refreshed, clean and purified. They can be chanted out loud, whispered or said internally. They have been used throughout the centuries and it is believed that the sacred power of words and the accompanying sounds in Mantra aid in healing in the physical and energetic bodies.
My Favourite Mantra’s
Om Mani Padme Hum: I bring Purity to my body, mind and speech. I follow the path of wisdom with love and compassion……… See our Aquamarine mala.
Ra, Ma, Da, Sa, Sa, Say, So, Hung….. I am grounded, I am creative, I am worthy, I am loved, I speak my truth, I see with clarity, I am connected. See our Chakra mala.
All of these Mantra’s can be found on Spotify or Youtube. So while you are learning, find a track that you connect with, until your Mantra radiates from within.
How to use Mala Beads
Here are some simple ‘how to’ steps for incorporating Mala beads into your meditation practice:
- Start by holding the necklace in your dominant hand, tassel facing towards you.
- Start with the bead to the right of the guru bead, turning each bead individually in your fingers and making your way slowly to the next bead.
- When turning the beads, try not to use the index finger as that is believed to represent the ego. Try using your thumb nail to pull the bead towards you. Or you can use your thumb to rotate the bead by turning it and moving to the next.
- Once you feel like you have the hang of it, try layering in breathing. On each bead, take a deep inhale and exhale. Then move to the next bead. Deep inhale and exhale.
- Once you have the breathing down you can layer in your Mantra. On each bead, along with your breath, try silently repeating your Mantra to yourself. On each bead, inhale “I Am” and exhale a word that embodies how you want to feel in that moment. It can be abundant, strong, patient, intuitive, etc. Inhale “I Am” and exhale your word on each bead. You can also simply use one word such as grounded, or love.
- Once you have made it around 108 beads, you will reach the guru (teacher) bead. The teacher bead signifies a moment to pause and sit in reflection. Here, you can thank and honour your teachers & guides and yourself for taking the time to sit in stillness.
- If you want to keep meditating, rather than continuing over the guru bead, it is advised to turn back in the direction you just came.
Please don’t be concerned when your mind wanders. When it does, simply acknowledge your thoughts without judgement, let them go, and return your focus to your Mala beads, your breath and your Mantra.
Yoga & Oils – Spade to Spoon is a Yoga studio in Te Awamutu, New Zealand. They create healing essential oil blends, diffuser bracelets and Mala's, all made with love and the intention to bring calm, balance and peace into your life.