What is a Mala?
Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning "garland" or "necklace." Yogis and Buddhists were the first to use malas to enhance their spiritual practices. Also called yoga beads, the mala is used to keep count of mantra repetitions, or japa, during meditation.
Although the mala has recently become a fashion trend, historically this necklace has been sacred necklace has had a greater meaning and use than just a beautiful piece of jewelry. Malas have been used as tool for meditation and focus for thousands of years. Yoga beads are similar to Rosaries or other types of prayer beads and often used in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. This sacred necklace is typically used for in meditation, intention setting, and prayer. With each bead that passes through your fingers you will repeat your mantra or intention. Please see How to Use Your Mala for more details.
A traditional mala consists of 108 wood, stone, shell, or seed beads. Depending on the style you choose, your mala may have mindfulness beads. These beads break the pattern of your mala and may consist of different size and texture than the rest of the beads in the mala. The mindfulness breads typically break the necklace down into either 4 sections of 27 beads or 3 sections of 36 beads. It is important to know that the mindfulness beads are not included in the 108 beads that are counted during your meditation practice.
Every mala will also feature a guru bead and tassel. It is said that the Guru bead is used to create intention within the wearer and to be a reminder of the motives for sitting in meditation. Just as the mindfulness beads the guru bead is not included in the 108 bead count. However, unlike the mindfulness beads, it is believed to be disrespectful to pass over the guru bead. So rather than continuing around the mala, the guru bead is used as a point of reflection. Reminding the user of the intention that was set and the awareness achieved during the meditation practice. Each guru bead will be accompanied by a tassel that is said to represent one-thousand petals of a Lotus Flower. Since it has been said that the most beautiful lotus flowers bloom from muddy waters, I believe the tassel symbolizes one’s transformation throughout their practice.