Quick guide to mala necklaces

Hi! You’re likely here because you purchased a mala necklace, or are thinking of getting one. Here’s the down low on what they are and how they are used.

What does ‘mala’ mean?

Mala is the Sanskrit word for ‘garland’, and it is often used to refer to a necklace consisting of 108 beads plus a guru bead (the big one in the middle!) and is used for keeping count during mantra meditations. You may have noticed that such necklaces are found in many cultures across the world! The rosary is an example, and is used to count prayers.

Why 108 beads?

For shorter meditations, there are also malas made of 27 or 54 beads, but 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism. You may have read of people doing 108 sun salutations during the summer equinox, but what is its significance? There are many theories, and it is very worthwhile and interesting to dive into this topic yourself! To name a few: there are said to be 108 energy lines towards the heart chakra and as for the numbers, some say that 1 stands for God, the universe or your own highest truth (whatever you’d like to call it); 0 stands for emptiness and humility in your spiritual practice; and 8 stands for infinity and timelessness. There are also some fabulous ‘coincidences’ found in astrology, but I invite you to discover these yourself :)

The guru bead is the 109th bead and symbolises our teacher, the divine, our inner guru, or God. During meditation it is used as a place for reflection, so take your time focusing on this bead to choose your mantra or positive affirmation that you will recite as you count each bead.

A quick note: most malas I make have markers at the 7th and 21st bead for shorter meditations. Use them as you wish! Alternatively, these markers are also used to check if you are still ‘there’.

How to use a mala

Before using it in your meditations, make sure to cleanse your mala has been cleansed properly. This has been done during the making of, but you never know what energies it has picked up on its way to you. For cleansing methods, take a look here.

  • First of all, get comfortable! Create your own sacred meditation space in a way that feels good for you. If this just means finding a quiet room and putting on a cozy sweater, then go for it!

  • Once you’re settled, find the guru bead and decide on a mantra or positive affirmation like ‘I am confident’. Try to use the same mantra each time. Alternatively, malas can also be used in silent meditation by focusing on the breath: with every bead that passes, inhale for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts.

  • Hold the guru bead between thumb and middle finger, and use your index finger to pull a bead towards you. Recite your chosen mantra with each bead. You can do this in your head, or out loud. Remember, your mala should allow you to relax and focus on your meditation without having to worry about the amount of time you should do it for.

  • Once you reach the guru bead, take a moment of inner silence and reflection and decide whether you would like to continue or end your meditation.

For a longer meditation, flip your mala around and go back the other way, the guru bead should not be counted or passed over.

Whether you are looking to cultivate more peace, clearer communication, more authenticity, or reduce stress, all of these things can be accessible to you through the practice of meditation. When wearing this mala ‘off the mat’, it will continue to remind you of your practice throughout the day!