Mala beads are beautiful and diverse. They can be made of any material; glass, stone, plastic, clay, metal, seed or wood. Cultures from around the world use them. Many people wear them and do not realize what they are for or where they come from; but they do make lovely jewelry in addition to being practical meditation tools. Ideally, from the Vedic perspective, a mala has 108 beads (or a multiple of 108) plus a Guru bead, and the modern stylish ones usually have a decorative crystal, bead or tassel.
The 108 beads are used to count repetitions of one’s selected mantra using the japa method we have already learned. Use the same mantra if you enjoyed the results or choose another one. In the Yogic tradition, repeating rounds of 108 mantras brings extra potency and auspiciousness to the process. In modern life, I find it convenient to set a timer if I have limited time instead of counting rounds.
In northern Indian tradition, hridaya, or heart mudra is used to pass the beads through the fingertips. The middle and ring fingers are touching the thumb. The mala hangs in the loop. The middle finger tip gently guides each bead, one at at time, into the loop until the string of needs comes full circle (one mantra per bead = 108 mantras per round). Rather than passing the Guru bead through the loop, turn the malas 108* so that the Guru bead flips around to the other side and continue passing the beads through.
Another, more simple option, it to pass the beads through the fingertips between the thumb and index fingers.
Decide how long you have to sit, set an appropriate timer, choose your mantra, create your intention and begin! One mantra per bead, one or two beads per inhale, one or two beads per exhale. Set the rhythm of the breath first so that it will create a comfortable tempo for the beads and mantras throughout the meditation.
This one requires a bit of coordination so give it time before you form an opinion. On our 200 hour intensive yoga teacher certification immersion in Costa Rica, Tuscany & Verona, Italy, and the South of France we practice this technique for three days for 20-25 minutes followed by 3-5 minutes without technique.
About Dr. Liz Lindh:
I am Dr. Liz Lindh, Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, holistic skincare and natural beauty expert, Yoga Teacher and Yoga Teacher Trainer. I am the Director of The Sanctuary at Two Rivers in Costa Rica and Founder of Lakshmi Rising School for Yoga & Wellness.