In my yoga classes I have been using mala beads as a means of creating a calm and restful mind before meditation. 
So, what is a mala, how do you use it and where can you it them from.

What are mala?

A mala is a simple string of beads used in meditation to count sankalpas, mantras, or intentions. Malas can also be used to count breaths or used in a gratitude meditation. Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning garland. The practice of using mala beads for meditation or prayer has been around since the 8th century BC. 
A full mala contains 108 counting beads plus one guru bead. A mala can also be strung as a half mala containing 54 beads, or as a wrist mala with 27 counting beads to be worn as a bracelet. The guru bead is sometimes larger than the other beads and has a tassel connected at the end. Mala beads are also referred to as mantra beads, meditation beads, Hindu rosaries or Buddhist prayer beads.

Why do malas have 108 beads?

There are many different views regarding why 108 beads are used. The number 108 has a very powerful significance in the science and spirituality of India. Many ancient yoga texts have 108 chapters. The diameter of the sun is approximately 108 times that of earth, and the distance from the Sun to the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Sun. The yogic tradition describes 108 nadis (energy lines or pathways) connecting to the heart chakra. The Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters, each letter has a Shakti (feminine) and Shiva (masculine) quality, which then totals 108.
And there are more views on this subject…

What are malas made from?

Malas can be made out of many different materials. The most common types of beads used in a mala are made from wood, seeds, or semi-precious gemstones. 

How to use a mala

Firstly, find a quiet place and get comfortable. Sitting on the floor with a cushion under your buttock and a straight back. If this is not comfortable sit in a chair with your feet flat to the ground. Keep a straight back and relax your shoulders. Hold your mala beads in your right hand with the guru bead facing you and the beads over your middle finger. Your ring finger and little finger remain connected. Gently close your eyes and placing your thumb on the first bead behind the guru bead, take in your breath and when you breathe out move one bead towards you and place your thumb on the next bead. Alternately you can say your sankalpa, mantra, either aloud or in your head, and then move the bead towards you.  
If your mind drifts off just bring it back to the breath or mantra and continue to move the beads.
If you use all the mala beads it will take approximately 20 minutes. If you find that you do not have that much time start halfway, 10 minutes, or use just a quarter of the beads and take 5 minutes.

How do I get a mala?

You can buy malas easily online or make your own mala bead necklace. Check out a tutorial here.

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