Mala Beads: What They Are & How To Use Them

If you’ve ever seen someone in your yoga class wearing one of those beautiful long strand beaded necklaces and wondered why they were wearing them and what they were: you’re not alone! I remember when I first started practicing yoga I would see the yogis around my studio wearing them around their necks, or wrapped around their wrists and thought they were so pretty…. but I was clueless as to what they were, and far too intimidated to ask why they were all wearing them, or what they were even called.

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Those beautiful long strand beaded necklaces are called mala beads, and they are more than just a yogic accessory; they are a traditional tool used for meditation! Mala beads have been used by yogis for thousands of years to help keep the mind focused during meditation (see, it’s not just you- EVERYONE finds focusing while meditating challenging at one time or another!) Mala beads act as an anchor for the mind and attention in those hard-to-focus moments on your meditation cushion.

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The word ‘mala’ is a Sanskrit word, which means “meditation garland.” Malas were first created in India over 3000 years ago (with roots in Buddhism and Hinduism) and were traditionally used for a style of meditation called Japa; but in my opinion are wonderfully helpful in any style of meditation. Each mala necklace has exactly 108 beads (108 is an auspicious number in yoga) plus 1 guru bead. Essentially, the beads on the strand are used to count the number of times a mantra is recited or number of breaths while meditating, in sets of 108 repetitions.

When you’re not using your mala beads in meditation you can wear them around your neck, or looped around your wrist as a reminder of your positive intentions! It is also believed that when malas are used regularly for meditation and repeating mantras, they absorb the vibrations of the practice; so the more you wear it and use it, the more positive energy it absorbs and holds!