HISTORY OF MALAS
You may see malas worn on wrists or necks of jewelry lovers and yogis too. But traditionally, the mala was first created in India 3000 years ago and has roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. A mala, Sanskrit word for “garland," is a string of beads with 1 bigger bead also known as the Guru bead. This bead is the starting and ending point of each set of japa. Originally, mala, or prayer, beads were used for a special style of meditation called Japa, which means, “recitation.” So, malas are prayer beads used for meditation. It is believed that a prayer should be recited 27, 54 or 108 times. Similarly, malas have 27, 54 or 108 beads. You can use the mala to focus on reciting your prayer/mantra/intention without having to count.
However, you will see them everywhere now as part of fashion, jewelry trend, and a way for people to show their connection to and honor the yoga lifestyle. And really, they have been worn by yogis and spiritual seekers from around the world for thousands of years.
CHOOSING A MALA
When selecting a mala, be clear on what your intention is, and use your intuition over your intellect. You may want to try out each mala for a few repetitions to see how it feels to you and choose the one that feels like it fits best for you. You can also chose beads/stones with the healing energies of the intentions you want to meditate on or simply work on in your life. For example-- rose quartz for love, amethyst for protection or overcoming addiction, etc. Sit and meditate with it and with intention choose your mantra. Know that you will repeat this mantra/intention/prayer 108 times, 1 time for each bead.
USING YOUR MALA
Hold your mala in your right hand (in India the left hand is considered impure) and use your thumb to “count” each mantra by touching the bead during the recitation and then move to the next bead. The index finger is extended and should not touch the mala. The large bead should not be counted or touched by the thumb and is used as a starting and ending point of the recitation.
Bracelet Mala: If you have a wrist mala of 27 beads you will need to repeat this 3 more times. Continue by pulling the beads and going backwards until you have done 108 repetitions.
To empower the mala and the mantra used, practice this each day for 40 continuous days. When the mala becomes empowered it can be worn or lightly placed on oneself or others to transmit the energy of the mantra as well as the energetic qualities of the mala.
When not in use, store your mala in a special, clean and preferably sacred space.