“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” -Zen proverb
One of the beautiful things about yoga asana practice is that it leads you straight into a calm state of mind, ready to concentrate deeply and ultimately meditate. One tool that yoga provides is the mala beads, in both necklace and bracelet form. When you use the mala beads to meditate, this is called japa meditation. Japa meditation is when you repetitively recite a mantra.
In India, soul jewelry has a long tradition. Holy men and women use them to deepen their spirituality, to connect to power channels, and to protect from negative illusions. Mala beads are also used for japa meditation in Buddhism.
I began using mala beads, after my yoga teacher gave me a gift of a blessed Rudraksha seed mala bracelet from India. He showed us how you use them at the end of yoga class and gave me the Saraswati mantra for knowledge and education since I was a college student at the time. The mantra he gave us was:
Aing Saraswathye Namah
I never forgot how to use these mala beads for japa meditation and I began to incorporate it into my yoga routine. To this day, I like using them because they help to sustain a mantra, when thoughts try to pop into my head. My mind can easily clear and I can enter into a meditative state quicker.
Mala beads are designed to heal you, increase your soul power, also called Shakti, create protection circles against negativity, and connect you to divine channels.
Parts of the Mala
Mala beads have 108 beads or multiples of 9, often 27 (bracelets). The ancient Indian sages discovered 108 Repetitions to be the amount of repetitions needed to calm the mind and enter into another state of mind.
There are generally certain beads used to aid in attracting divine energy and power:
Rudraksha Seeds: Rudraksha means tears of Shiva and symbolizes limitless compassion.
Sandalwood and Rose wood: Different colors and varieties.
Crystals: Crystals add further meaning, healing properties and intention to the mala set.
Guru Bead: the part between the tassel and the mala. This marks the beginning and end of each cycle. This bead represents leading you from darkness to light, the knowledge that takes you out of ignorance.
Tassel: The tassel channels energy across your body and represents enlightenment.
Some malas have knots between the beads, which prevent the beads from sliding into one another and stretching the string with ware. It is said that if the beads break it is time to let go of that intention.
They are a beautiful way to plant seeds of specific intentions and states of mind. Remember to treat them carefully and with respect. My yoga teacher always told us to never let the malas touch the floor as a symbol of respect. We want to protect the energy that the mala holds.
Hold the bracelet in your hands with the tassle facing you. Start with the bead next to the tassle. Leave your pointer finger out. The pointer finger represents the ego so that is why we do not use the pointer finger. Begin to slide the beads toward you as your thumb and middle finger touch each bead, one at a time, as you say your mantra. You can either say it out loud or internally. Recite one full mantra per bead.
Do not cross over the guru bead when you get to the end.
When using a bracelet or to continue a new round follow these directions. It can be confusing but videos of the process can help if you get frustrated.
Hold the last bead with your thumb (earth element) and third finger (sky).
Slide the ring finger out and reverse the direction of the mala. The last bead now becomes the first and japa begins again.
Examples of mantras:
- So(inhale) hum(exhale)
- ‘om shanti, shanti, shanti’ which represents all encompassing peace.
- Om namah shivaya
When you get to the guru bead, it is now time for pause and reflection. I hope you find both peace and enlightenment with this precious mala bead japa meditation.