If you’re starting to become interested in mala beads, maybe you were introduced to them from someone in your yoga class wearing them, or maybe you saw a cool and random listing on Etsy and wondered what they were and how to use mala beads.
Mala beads are very versatile and can be used in many ways. So let’s take a brief look at the history of mala beads and talk about the different ways you can use mala beads in your spiritual life for mental and physical health and success.
Brief History and Anatomy of Mala Beads
Malas were first created around 3,000 years ago in India. “Mala” in Sanskrit means “meditation garland”. They were specifically used in a style of yoga called “Japa”, which means “to recite”.
Mala beads have 108 meditation beads, which represent the 108 mortal desires which mankind must overcome to reach Nirvana. They also have a guru bead (the 109th bead) to mark the end of the 108 recitations, which is there to represent gratitude. Traditionally, there are knots between each of the beads to help you keep your beads and restring them in case the cord ever breaks.
Sometimes, there will be marker beads at certain places along the string of beads to help you keep track of your meditation. There is also traditionally a tassel on your mala beads, which represents the connection to the spirit.
While this is traditionally how mala beads are constructed, there are other variations. Many mala beads include a charm or crystal instead of a tassel. Some have markers while others don’t.
Mala beads are very personal to the user/wearer, so whenever you choose a set of mala beads, make sure they speak to you!
RELATED: How to Choose Your Mala Beads
6 Ways to Use Mala Beads
However you choose to use your mala beads, they are a very mindful, conscious item, so use them wisely! Here are 6 different ways you can use mala beads.
1. Use Mala Beads with Japa Yoga and Meditation
Japa literally means “muttering” in Sanskrit. In this style of yoga, you repeat the same mantra throughout your session. This could be as simple as a syllable like “om” or could be a short mantra or affirmation such as “I am calm”. This repetition can either be aloud or in your own mind as you go through the japa meditation.
Hold your mala and start next to the guru bead. As you hold each bead, repeat your mantra. Don’t forget to breathe with each repetition as well! Go to the next bead and repeat.
If your mala bead has spacers or markers on it, this makes it easier to keep mental track (without actually counting) of where you are in your repetition. As traditional mala beads have 108 beads, you will recite 108 times. When you reach the guru bead again, do not repeat your mantra on the guru bead. You may end your meditation session, or simply turn around and go back the other way to repeat your mantra 108 more times.
Practicing meditation with affirmations and mala beads is about the best way to have a comprehensive and intentional practice.
2. Use Mala Beads with Breathing Meditation
In this breathing meditation, the concept is similar to that of japa meditation. Except instead of using a mantra, you will focus solely on your breath.
- Holding your mala beads in one hand, put the bead next to the guru bead between your thumb and forefinger.
- Complete one full deep breath, both inhalation and exhalation.
- Go to the next bead and do the same thing.
- Again, once you get to the guru bead, you can end the meditation or turn around and go the other way.
There are many benefits of deep breathing, including:
- pain relief
- stimulating the lymph
- increasing energy
- lowering blood pressure
- improving digestion
3. Use Mala Beads with Goal-focused Meditation
After reading the book Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis, I’ve been writing my long-term goals every day. It took me several months before making the connection that I could double my manifestation power by reciting my goals in meditation.
Because goals have a tendency to be longer than a simple mantra, I usually only use one each day. For example, if my long term goal is to have zero debt, I will start my meditation and recite:
I am free from debt!
Following the rules of writing good affirmations, I chose the word “free from” instead of “zero” because I want to feel light, free, and happy! (The word free brings about more positive feelings than the word zero does.) I write and recite my goals in present tense, as if I have already accomplished them.
Use the same process as the two styles above as you hold the beads and repeat your goal one time for each bead.
4. Use Mala Beads with Gratitude-focused Meditation
In gratitude focused meditation, you will specifically focus on the emotion of gratitude. This is one of the most healing and highest vibrational emotions that you can experience, along with love, contentedness, peace, and bliss.
Gratitude helps us to let go of negative emotions and instead turn our cognition to the positive feelings we experience. Gratitude can help us improve our self esteem, improve our relationships with others, and help us find meaning in our lives, as well as having many more benefits.
When you practice your gratitude meditation, choose a mantra focused on gratitude.
I am grateful for my children.
I am grateful for the air I breathe.
I am grateful for my job.
Whatever you are grateful for, spend a few minutes prior to your meditation journaling on what you are grateful for in your own life. You may want to choose just one, or you might want to choose a few. When you get to a spacer or marker in your mala, switch to a different thing you feel grateful for. Repeat as many times as you feel necessary through the full 108 beads, and make sure that you are using the same techniques as in the previous meditations above.
RELATED: 4 Steps to Spiritual Enlightenment
5. Use Mala Beads for Fashion
Wearing your mala beads out to show your boho style is always a possible.
While this style doesn’t include mindfulness or meditation, it can still be a spiritual practice. Mala beads are a symbol of mindfulness and spirituality. In fact, they’re incredibly empowering and it can even be trendy to wear your mala beads!
You can, of course, wear your mala beads around your neck. They will likely hang quite long, but if they are long enough to wrap a second time, you can.
You can also wrap them several times to wear on your wrist like a bracelet. When you wear them on your wrist, you’re more likely to see them, and thus, have your attention brought to the intention of your mala beads.
Just make sure to read the “Additional Considerations” below to decide if you should meditate and wear the same mala beads, or if you should have different sets for different purposes.
6. Use Mala Beads for Crystal Healing
One last way you can use mala beads is through the crystals that you choose for your mala.
Essentially, different crystals have different properties and are associated with different energy centers of the body. These energy centers are called chakras and they’re associated with different areas of our health as well as different concepts in our lives.
For example, the 4th chakra is your heart chakra. It’s associated with the color green (and pink) and is frequently connected with the energies of love, understanding, giving, and emotional connections with others.
Green stones and many pink ones are associated with the heart chakra, including amazonite, aventurine, jade, rhodonite, and rose quartz.
If you are someone who is struggling with anxiety, you may want a mala beads with red or black (to ground you in your root chakra) and deep blue (to enhance and clarify your 6th, third-eye chakra).
Or if you are going to be giving birth soon, perhaps you want to use unakite for its connection to your 2nd, sacral chakra, as well as rose quartz to establish a deep connection with your baby.
For more info on different types of crystals and what they can do, head over to How to Choose Your Mala Beads.
Many mala bead experts advocate that you do not use mala beads for different purposes.
It’s a scientific fact that everything has vibration, even inanimate objects. The belief goes that the objects you interact with pick up your vibrational energy. Therefore, spiritual items are best not multipurpose. Use your mala beads solely for their intended purpose. Also, don’t forget that different stones have different energies to begin with and can enhance your own vibrations.
So basically, if you are working on fertility and conceiving a baby, you will want a different set of mala beads to use if you’re also hoping to earn a lot of money. If you’re intending to use the mala beads for meditation, then don’t wear them as jewelry. Purchase or make a separate set of beads for the purpose of jewelry or fashion.
When you receive your mala beads that you’ve chosen, immediate set an intention with them. Or, if you choose a high quality mala maker, they will likely set an intention and cleanse them before shipping them to you. For example, Shorio Daishun (Shorio Spirit Jewelry at Etsy) is a Buddhist nun. After making a mala bead necklace for someone, she takes the time to cleanse them and set an intention, meditating with the beads on that intention before shipping them to you. How cool!
Cleansing Your Mala Beads
Most crystals and gemstones need to have their energy cleansed, because as much as you’d like to keep your energy pure or purposeful, we are only human. As we use mala beads regularly, they will naturally pick up other energies that don’t match the intention we’ve set for them.
Here are a couple easy ways to cleanse your mala beads:
1. Sunlight or Moonlight
Laying your mala beads out in sunlight or direct moonlight for a few hours will help to cleanse the impure energies from your mala beads.
2. Sage smoke cleansing
(A quick note: Please do not use the term “smudging” unless you are Native American or First Nation. Smudging is a very specific ritual that is completed with white sage. This is cultural appropriation, and I do not recommend using this method if you are of a different heritage or ethnicity.)
Regardless of your heritage or ethnicity, you can still cleanse your mala beads with other herbs or incense.
Light the herb bundle like rosemary, lavender, cedar, or other herb. Hold your mala directly over it and let the smoke engulf it. Set an intention and speak your intention into existence while the smoke goes around your mala. Wait for a few moments while the smoke dissipates.
When you’re first learning how to use mala beads, it may take a little while until you find what’s right for you. But remember, mala beads can pick up your energy and your intention. So make sure you are consistent when you find a process that works for you! The longer you use them for that purpose, the greater their energy will be in your life!