Mala Beads: What They Are & How to Use Them

Mala beads (also called malas, japa malas, and meditation beads) are popular in the yoga community; but what are they? Read on to learn more about malas and how they are used!

What is a mala?

A mala is a string of beads – in this case, a combination of natural wood and real gemstones – traditionally used as a tool for meditation. They are similar to prayer beads or rosaries. Made up of 108 beads plus a “guru” stone (a bead or "line" of beads that is different than the others - typically larger or smaller), malas are typically used to chant or pray with, to help count mantras or to time your meditation. In addition to their use in meditation, malas can be worn around your neck or hung in a special place as a reminder of an intention, the power of choice, your personal and/or spiritual path or practice, or simply a reminder of peace. Malas are often worn as a necklace or twisted into a bracelet. That way they are available when you need them and also remind you of your intentions. They are also super pretty - and (often) made of natural wood and/or gemstones, so they feel fantastic as well. 

108-bead mala with eaglewood, zebradorite, and rose quartz

How do I choose a mala?

Choose one you are attracted to! You can choose a mala for the way it looks, the properties of the gemstones it is made with, or the way it feels when you see it. You might choose one for the color combination or how it looks, overall. Many stones and some types of wood are associated with certain types of energies, intentions, or moods, so choosing one based on those is always an option. However you decide, the best way is going with your intution and choosing the one that looks best to you!

How do I use a mala?

There are many perspectives on how you should use a mala. The most simple one is to begin at the guru stone. Say your mantra, then move to the next bead and say it again. Once you’ve moved all the way around the mala and return to the guru stone, you will have chanted your mantra 108 times! The number 108 has spiritual, scientific, religious, and cultural significance. You can also read up on the significance of the number 108. You could also use your mala as a gratitude exercise, naming something you are grateful for, with each bead. Or, you could also use it while just sitting quietly, to count your breath and focus. Another way to use it is simply as a way to remind yourself to stay present, breathe, and flow with life!  

Mala made with a sparkly calcite cluster, jasper, and rudraksha beads

What some mantras you can use?

You don't need a mantra but, if you want to use one, you have many choices! If you know of a chant or come across one that you like, that is a great one to use! If you need some ideas, try choosing from the ones below. You can choose based on how they sound to you, how they feel when you say them, or by what they mean – their intention.
  • OM (Aum, Ohm): The primordial sound. An extremely powerful mantra, representing our interconnectedness as well as the divine inside each of us.
  • Om Shanti (or Om Shanti Shanti Shanti): A prayer for peace. Using shanti three times is a wish for true peace (peaceful body; peaceful speech; peaceful mind).
  • Om Nama Shivaya: A prayer to Shiva – your inner Self. This mantra literally means “I bow to Shiva.” Use this mantra as a way to reconnect with your true identity and with the consciousness that dwells within.

A mala made with onyx, mother of pearl, and rudraksha beads

All in all, there is no wrong way to use a mala; they are tools to help support your journey in this life - whether that is as an accessory, a reminder, or as part of a meditation or other type of mindfulness practice. I hope you learned something about malas and what they are! We have a few available in the shop - stop by and check them out and let me know if you have any questions! Want to read more about crystals?

Check out our post all about the gorgeous amethyst! Do you have a mala? How have you used yours? Let me know in the comments!