What are Mala Beads? And How Do I Use Them?

When I was in Thailand, Mala beads were being sold everywhere. They were beautiful and had that spiritual allure I'm such a sucker for. I knew they were more than just a fashion accessory, and that's precisely why I didn't buy any. I didn't know anything about them at the time, and I didn't want to just toss them around my neck like another quintessential wanna-be yogi tourist from America.


I never stopped wondering about those beads though. So when the opportunity to attend a workshop titled “Yoga, Mediation and Mala Making Session” popped up, I jumped on board. Perfect chance to learn about the Mala, to broaden my practice and to work on coming out of my shell.


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When I first walk in to Amber Connection, where the workshop is being held, I immediately catch chill vibes. It’s warm and inviting, with an eclectic artsy vibe. There is beautiful amber jewelry, sage, scarves and artwork all around.


I wander up the stairs where I take off my shoes and sign in. I’m greeted by a beautiful smiling Sophie and Angela who both envelop me in a big hug even though they just met me. They are leading the workshop and I can feel that these are good hearted people, I feel welcome. My shoulders can drop a little further from my ears now. I mean, I can unclench my jaw.


I'm ready to learn.



What I think I know about Mala Beads

(written by a total newb)



A mala is string of 108 beads plus 1 “guru” bead and often a tassel. It is used as a tool during meditation or prayer to keep count while chanting or reciting a mantra.


It is believed that each mala will absorb and release energy gained during your yoga practice and meditation.





Why 108 Beads?


Let's just say the number 108 has been considered a sacred number for a very long time. Here are just a few of the explanations I've heard about:

  • In the yogic tradition, we find 108 sacred vedic texts, 108 sacred holy sites in India, and 108 marma (acupressure-like) points on the body.

  • It is said that there are 108 stages the human soul goes through on its journey.

  • In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.

  • Vedic mathematicians measured the Sun’s diameter to be 108 times larger than the diameter of the Earth, measured the distance between the Sun and Earth to be 108 times the Sun’s diameter.


Read more about the significance of the number 108 in this article on Wanderlust.



What is a Guru Bead?


The guru bead is the 109th bead at the bottom of the necklace, above the tassel. This bead is not counted, it is the designated starting and stopping point and represents the student-teacher relationship.



What Does the Tassel Symbolize?


The tassel is said to represent the petals of the lotus flower, a representation of ourselves and our journey enlightenment.



Why Use a Mala?


Because meditation is not easy! If you're someone who is fidgety or just needs something to do with their hands, a mala will help keep your mind focused and gives you a way to keep count.






Setting an Intention:


Your intention is your objective. Why are you sitting down and dedicating this time to your meditation? What are you hoping to gain, give thanks or devotion for? Think about what your dreams, goals, and deepest desires are, and extract your intention from that.



Choosing a Mantra:


A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated often that expresses your beliefs.


Many of us have been using mantras for years without even knowing it. Telling ourselves things like “I hate this, I'm so stupid, this is stupid, no one listens to me, I don't know what I’m doing."

That's low vibrational negetive talk.

The goal is to replace that garbage with some high frequency mantra:


  • So Hum: I am that. To manifest your highest potential

  • Sat Nam: Truth is my name. To manifest your intuition

  • Om Shanti: Universal peace. To manifest awareness

  • Om Mani Padme Hum: The jewel is in the lotus. To invoke compassion



Or if none of those resonate with you, try an affirmation or any other choice of words that suit you. A few I like are:


  • Let go, let god

  • This too shall pass

  • I am enough

  • One day at a time

  • Be here now







What I like most about the mala, is that it can be whatever you need it to be for you.


Whatever intention you put in to it, is what it will take on. If you believe it is nothing but a string of beads, it will be nothing but a string of beads. If you believe it will help you find peace, then it will bring you closer to peace.


For this same reason, making my own felt very important to me.


I sat there stringing one bead at a time, I infused a one word intention into each one as I worked. Confidence. Clarity. Strength. Direction. Trust. Bravery. Truth. Peace. Understanding. Freedom. Joy. Love. Balance...etc.


I continued like that, until I slid on all 108 and set my final and all encompassing intention: that through meditating with these mala beads, I might discover what I was put here to do, and the courage to carry it out.



All you need is love and tacos.



At the end of the workshop, we stood together in a circle with our Mala and chanted "Om Mani Padme Hum" As I fumbled my way through this and swayed side to side mimicking our leader Sophie, I thought about how far I’ve come that I came here today to meditate and chant with people who I've never met before today.


Moments like this, I have to stop and ask myself, “Who am I?” in some kind of sarcastic disbelief. For so long I was the girl who didn't want to go anywhere in public by myself. It’s still hard to muster the desire to leave the comfort of my house, most days.


However, my desire to live my life instead of watching it pass by and my curiosity to discover more and to realize my potential, is greater than the anxiety that tells me nobody likes you, you're awkward and you don't fit in anywhere. Middle fingers to that guy.


My curiosity winds me up in all sorts of situations that make my skin crawl with insecurity, but sometimes you have to withstand a little of that for the greater good. No one said growing was comfortable.







If you are interested in attending a mala making workshop with Sophie and Angela, follow them on Facebook at Henna Chakra and Angelas Creations to stay in the loop about upcoming events!






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