How to use mala beads

Think mala beads are just fashion items worn by hipster yogis and yoginis? Think again. When used during meditation, a mala has the potential to empower and inspure. Want to know how? Read on.

What are mala beads?

A mala is a circle of beads used during the reciting of magical and mystical mantras. Within many enduring eastern traditions a mala commonly consists of 108 beads and a 109th ‘guru’ bead. Did you know that the diameter of the Sun multiplied by 108 is equal to the distance between the Sun and the Earth, and that also the diameter of the Moon multiplied by 108 is equal to the distance between the Earth and the Moon? Perhaps those clever ancient yogis were on to something.

How do malas beads work?

Using mala beads is all about transformation – by using the power of repetition to focus the mind, we start to bring about change, mentally and spiritually. Although mala beads have ancient origins (over 2000 years, maybe even more), their potential for improving our well-being in the modern world is only just starting to be explored. Recent studies have shown that using malas with mantras can result in noticeable positive psycho-spiritual effects. It’s thought that these benefits can be understood in terms of ritual – that the act of preparing and using a mala encourages more peace, calm and healing. 

The reason that ritual and repetition works is due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, a fancy word for describing the fact that our brains have the capacity to be ‘rewired’. When we repeat something often enough, we create new neurological pathways in the brain. What this really means is that we start to transform our thoughts, behaviour and ultimately our happiness.  A study by Emmon and McCullough in 2003 showed that lasting positive change can start to take place after only 7 days, simply by changing what we focus on.   

But enough with the science – it’s time to explore the wonderful world of malas for yourself.

How to choose a mala

Thankfully we live in a world where there is an abundance of malas on the market, to suit all tastes and budgets. Some are made from organic materials such as wood and rudraksha (a type of seed), and others are made from natural stones that represent certain intentions and energies. I often encourage my clients to splurge on a high quality and beautiful mala if they can – this is already telling the subconscious mind that you value the mala and that you mean business. Usually the right one will make itself known to you – you’ll get that inner sense of knowing.

How to use mala beads

Find a mantra that resonates with you and your intention. For example your mantra could be:

 ‘I am worthy’

‘I am whole’

‘I am strong’

Make a commitment to recite your chosen mantra 108 times every day for 21 days, which really gives you the chance to make a change.  Although it’s not always possible, it can be easier if you choose a specific time of day and stick to it as best you can.

1.       Before beginning, create a sacred space for yourself. Sit comfortably with your spine straight and hold the mala with both hands in front of your heart. Close your eyes and imagine that you are cleansing the mala. Now start to bring your awareness to your breath and begin to deepen it. Feel a sense of your connection to the entire universe.  Align yourself with your intention and your mantra.

2.       Hold the mala in your right hand, draped between your middle and index fingers. Starting at the guru bead, begin to recite the mantra and with each repetition, use your thumb to count each bead, pulling it towards you.

3.       Repeat your mantra 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you once again reach the guru bead.

4.       Take a moment to feel the energy of the mantra vibrating through you. Place the mala around your neck and bring your palms together in front of your heart in gratitude.