Malas and Mantras
Malas and mantras are making a fresh new wave in our western yoga culture. We’ve all witnessed celebrities, yoga teachers, local designers and students wearing malas as fashionable necklaces and clothing companies printing mantras on their products, but when it comes down to it, malas and mantras have much more meaning then fashion. They hold sacred power and have an ability to transform our lives through their continued use in prayer or meditation.
Mala beads, or prayer beads, are used to focus the mind. True mala beads have 109 beads on them. The 109th bead is called the Guru bead. The Guru bead signifies the completion of a prayer cycle. When using a mala, take care not to cross the Guru Bead as crossing over the guru bead is like crossing over your teacher. The thread that holds the beads together symbolizes the Spirit. Each of the 108 beads strung on the thread symbolizes one of the lives that has served its purpose in the evolution of the Higher Self. The tassel you sometimes see on mala beads represents enlightenment.
Mala beads are used in both Buddhism and Hinduism to keep track of mantras during meditation. Mantras are words or sounds used in repetition to help focus the mind which can bring peace and concentration. Some mantras are longwinded full prayers, others are sweet simple vibrational sounds passed through lineages with no literal meaning.
Mantra itself is a healing force of nature, a sacred vibratory sound that shakes free disease in the body and mind. Similar to how a jackhammer breaks up pieces of concrete, mantra breaks up stagnant energy and allows for an unimpeded flow of prana.
As the prana breaks loose and moves freely in the mind and body, the continued repetition of the mantra can induce a trance-like state connecting us to the universal consciousness. It is in this universal consciousness we feel our limitless potential and supported by all those who chanted the mantra before us.
How to use Mala beads:
- Sit in a favorite meditation spot in a comfortable position so that your back is able to be straight.
- Place the Mala beads in the right hand, and rest the first bead/working bead of the mala over the middle finger.
- Close off your eyes and turn the gaze inwards, focussing on your breath.
- After you feel focused and calm, bring your attention to your mantra.
- Use your thumb to push one bead away from you at a time, repeating a mantra or affirmation. You may recite the mantra out loud or silently.
- One bead = one mantra.
- The index finger signifies the ego, the individual self.
- The thumb represents the Universal Self or Higher Self. Use your thumb and middle finger, when working with Mala beads. Keep the ego (index finger) out of it.
Mantras we love:
- Lokah samastah sukinoh bhavantu
- Om namah shivayah
- Om gam ganapataye namaha
- So hum
Repeat mala meditaion as you would asana, for it has been said: “In yoga, asanas are the postures of the body, and mantras are the postures of the mind.”
Looking for a mala? Stop by Mangala Yoga’s Makawao studio to check out malas made by local artists!