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I began meditating when I was going through the police academy as a way to help me feel more energized after getting very little sleep. That was over 4 years ago and has since then turned into a habit I try to implement into my life daily.
Meditation is not as simple as sitting and closing your eyes. It takes time and practice to develop the habit and improve your concentration.
That being said, there are tools you can use to help you along your meditation journey to improve your focus and add to your meditation practice, such as mala beads.
What are mala beads? Mala beads, also known as malas, are a set of beads made out of wood or gemstones that are used during meditation in which the beads are counted to keep track of times a mantra is recited.
In no way do I claim myself an expert in this area, which is why today we have answers to all your questions about mala beads from expert Timothy Burgin, the owner of Japa Mala Beads.
Below are specific questions answered about mala beads by Tim himself:
What is your background, and how long have you been using/making mala beads?
I have been practicing Japa meditation for about 20 years and making malas for nearly 15 years. I started making malas in 2004 after my first mala broke.
After a lot of searching for a replacement, I realized that it would be best to make my own mala instead of settling for a cheaply made one. After making about six malas, I decided to try and sell them online, and that’s when I launched Japa Mala Beads.
What are mala beads? What are mala beads used for?
A mala is comparable to a Catholic rosary and is used by yogis and Buddhists as a tool for meditation and chanting mantras or prayers.
Chanting mantras and using mala beads are some of the oldest yogic practices, dating back several thousand years. Initially, the mantras were kept very secret because of their power and potency. It is still favored to receive a mantra from a guru or teacher, but there are many public mantras available to choose from.
What are the benefits of using mala beads?
There are several ways how using mala beads enhances meditation.
1. Holding and touching the beads creates a tactile sensation to concentrate the mind on to help steer it away from the preoccupation of our thoughts.
2.Using a mala to count repetitions of mantras acts as a timer to give you a consistency of a set time, which is necessary for a successful meditation practice.
3. The energetic characteristics of the gemstone and wood beads can help keep the mind calm, clear, and focused. The combination of deep breathing, sacred mantra and the slow, uniform rhythm of a japa meditation practice has inherent and synergistic calming properties. This practice creates entrainment of the mind to induce specific brainwave states.
Japa meditation is the simplest and most effective way to activate the slower brainwave states of Alpha (focus and learning), Theta (creativity and intuition) and Delta (healing and calming).
With continued practice, japa meditation promotes a deep inner-strength and inner-power that may be surprising. Mantras hold and activate shakti energy, but it is only through the repetition of these potent mantras that this energy can build up over time.
I recommend committing to a 40-day practice of japa meditation to fully experience all of the physical and energetic benefits of the practice.
To learn about the different ways you can use mala beads in your meditation practice, check out the video below explaining 5 different ways to use mala beads:
Why are there 108 beads on a mala?
The ancient sages and rishis observed how Sanskrit mantras created a calming effect on the mind when chanted 100 times or more.
Because the number 108 is considered to be a sacred and auspicious number in Hinduism, Buddhism, and yogic traditions, this is why there are 108 counting beads in a mala.
The Guru or Meru bead is the 109th bead on a mala. This larger bead is connected to the mala’s tassel and marks the starting and ending point of the japa chant on a mala.
Below is an infographic explaining the proper anatomy of a mala:
How do you care for your mala beads?
Mala beads are a sacred object and should be handled with respect and reverence. The central thing is to be mindful of where you store your mala when not in use.
Here are a few tips on how to care for your mala beads properly to prolong their use:
- Gemstone beads can fade with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight, so it’s best to use a mala bag or a box for storage.
- If your mala becomes dirty, you can wipe them with a soft damp cloth.
- Mala beads will accumulate body oils during wear and use, and this can be removed using mild soapy water.
- Make sure you let your mala beads thoroughly dry after washing before using or wearing.
What is the process you go through for creating mala beads?
Designing and creating new malas is a very intuitive process for me. I am frequently searching and shopping for gemstone, metal, and wood beads.
It can take many months after finding new beads to match them up with a complementary bead. Once I discover a good pairing, then the mala design usually comes together rather quickly. We usually try out several different patterns before choosing the version that has the most beauty and power.
How to Pick the Right Mala Beads for You
We have a very detailed article on the different ways to choose mala beads on our website, but in summary, here are the most important things to factor in:
- You want to first get clear on what your intention and purpose is for buying and using a mala is.
- Then, let your intuition guide your choices to find a mala that speaks to you.
- Decide if a bracelet or full mala will be best for both japa use and wearing the mala.
- Decide whether gemstones are wood/seed beads are best for your intentions. Gemstone malas are heavy and cold to the touch while wood or seed malas are light, softer and warmer. It will be beneficial to get clear on the intention or reason behind purchasing the mala, as it is best to align your intentions with the energetic properties of the beads.
Try not to overthink the process and let your intention guide you towards what feels best.
No matter how long you have been practicing meditation, or if you are just starting your journey, mala beads can be an extremely helpful tool in progressing and deepening your practice.
If you’d like more information on meditation for beginners, check out a few of our other articles:
- Meditation for Beginners: Everything You Need To Start Your Practice
- The One Minute Stress Relief Meditation for Beginners
- Top 5 Guided Meditations for Beginners
Can you wear mala beads? Absolutely! Wearing your mala beads can be very beneficial as it is said the stones in the mala can help balance your energy. As for the rigt way for wearing a mala, if you are wearing it as a bracelet, it is said the traditional way is to wear it on your right wrist, but it is by no means mandatory. Wear your mala however you please, as long as you treat them with love and respect!
What is a mantra? A mantra is a statement, word, phrase, or sound repeated to aid in concentration during meditation. Mantras are scientifically proven to help with motivation, positivity, mindfulness, and happiness.
What is japa meditation? Japa meditation is a type of meditation that uses mantras to promote mindfulness and focus. The word “japa” is defined as the meditative repetition of a mantra or divine name.
Victor is the co-founder of Yoga Rove with his fiance Ally. He has been practicing yoga for 10+ years and is a long-term student and practitioner of alternative healing methods such as myofascial release and meditation. Victor has a passion for teaching others and is always learning new ways to heal and enhance himself through nutrition, movement, and mindfulness.