Malas have been called many names in many cultures: worry beads, prayer beads, and rosaries.
Traditionally they are comprised of 108, 54, or 27 beads and are used to count repetitions of a mantra during meditation. Believed to originate in India around 500 B.C, or perhaps earlier, they are one of the oldest tools used in meditation practices around the world.
The simple physical aspect of holding a mala while counting a mantra can assist in steadying the mind, inspiring the heart and calming the spirit. Many believe it can enhance your focus and aid your intentions if your mala is created from certain gemstones, seeds, or wood.
With so many gemstones and so many options, how do you choose a mala that is right for you and your practice? In order to discover what is calling to you, asking a few simple questions can help.
Do you study and work with chakras or energy points?
Are you inspired by a particular color?
Have you always been drawn to a specific gemstone?
This is the perfect place to begin—within you.
Take note of the colors that keep appearing in your daily life. Look at the palette of colors of your clothing, your home, and the environments that you enjoy spending time in. Very often, subtle details about our lives give us hints about what we are seeking.
As one who creates malas on a daily basis, some of the questions I am most often asked are:
What gemstones should I use?
Which gemstones will work best for me and my intentions?
Gemstones can have specific energies and vibrations. Many books have been written on the topic. But don’t believe you need to take someone’s word for it! If you find that a certain gemstone feels good for you, grounds you, or brings you peace by its very appearance, then that is what the stone will manifest for you. Start with the gemstone that you are initially attracted to. Most often your first choice is the one that will work best.
Should it be strung on wire or hand-knotted?
Malas can be any size, of any material and strung on any type of cord. If you can see and feel both a hand-knotted and a wire-strung mala in person, then that is ideal. If you like the feel of the knots between the beads rather than moving the beads along wire, then that is for you. Remember, you will be sitting with this mala for many sessions. You want it to feel organic and comfortable to hold.
Can you have a mala of different gemstones?
I love to limit malas to one or two gemstones, but it is very personal. Sometimes a combination of gemstones feels right. If you feel joy when you see a mala with all the colors of the rainbow, then go with it! Even if your choice feels like it is originating from a purely aesthetic place. Admiring something for its beauty can be beneficial and inspiring to your practice too!
This post may initially sound like a “how to” but it is mostly a reminder that what mala you choose is your decision, for your unique practice and your beautiful spirit!
There are those who enjoy the guidelines of traditions and books, which can be wonderful. However, if you work from a sincere and deep place within, your meditation will be just as authentic and just as fruitful.
May your meditations be blissful!
Lauren Saraswati Zavlunov is a mother, aspiring Yogini, professional musician and owner of the online boutique Jewels of Saraswati. Lauren’s specialty is creating customized hand-knotted malas and Yoga jewelry. She works closely with her clients on each mala design to manifest their unique spiritual and aesthetic vision. http://www.jewelsofsaraswati.com
Editor: Olga Feingold