The Benefits and Uses of Mala Beads
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I N M O D E R N Y O G I T I M E S
Malas are growing in popularity and can be a great complement to your meditation practice. Learn about the benefits of using a mala and unique ways to use one. Malas are often used as decorations, jewelry, or during seated meditation. You may see malas adorning the wrists, necks, and altars of meditation devotees and at the top of mats of yoga practitioners. These beautiful necklaces often hold special significance for the bearer based on where they got it, why they chose the stones, and the energy resonance they feel with the beads.
W H A T A R E M A L A B E A D S
A mala is simply a string of beads that are used in meditation practice. Sacred Buddhist mala beads have been used for centuries by many spiritual traditions as a tool to help to calm the mind, center oneself and connect the best that is within us. "Mala" means "meditation garland" in Sanskrit, "Japa" means to repeat a mantra or prayer. Malas are typically made with 18, 27, 54, 81, 99 or 108 beads. But mostly they are a strand of 108 beads, which are traditionally used in Buddhist and Hindu practices of meditation and prayer, it is a tool to help you to count mantras, and acts as a tactile guide as you sit in silence.
Mala beads are also gorgeous jewelry pieces and they can combine fashion and function. Malas can be made out of any number of materials including rudraksha tree, the wood of the tulsi plant, lotus seeds, sandalwood or precious gemstones. Every gemstone & wood is said to have different properties, energies, and meaning. Mala beads necklaces are not only gorgeous jewelry, but they are also called “Buddhist rosary” for their unmistakable meaning.
People choose to wear Mala Beads for a number of reasons: as part of meditation practice; to benefit from the energy of the crystals and gemstones; as a reminder of intentions they've set; because of a meaning they've associated with them; or simply because they're beautiful...
W H Y 1 0 8 B E A D S
The number 108 is considered a sacred number in Hinduism, Buddhism, and yogic tradition. Malas or Japa beads come in a string of 108 and are used for devotional meditation, mantra, and prayer. A japa mala may have fewer than 108 beads, but the number is always divisible by nine, such as 18, 27 and 54. With each bead, a mantra or prayer is repeated to meet a total of 108. The Guru bead is the larger bead or tassel on the mala and is not part of the 108. This is the guiding bead and marks the beginning and end of the mala/chant/prayer/mantra.
Here are a few interpretations of the significance of the number 108:
Sanskrit alphabet has 54 letters. Each letter has a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) energy 54 X 2 = 108
Desires. There are said to be 108 earthly desires in mortals.
Time. It is said we have 108 feelings. 36 related to the past, 36 related to the present, and 36 related to the future.
Astrology. There are 12 constellations and 9 arc segments. There are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 X 9 = 108
The diameter of the sun is 108 times the earth.
H O W T O U S E M A L A B E A D S
According to yogic philosophy, the mantra has the power to promote healing and elevate the level of consciousness to attain spiritual aspirations. Using japa mala helps to focus on the mantra, its sound and its power rather than the number of times a mantra is uttered.
The significance of the number of beads in a japa mala is that it is associated with the aim of practicing a particular japa. A japa mala with 27 beads is used for spiritual progress and a japa mala with 108 beads is used for attaining fulfillment.
The following is an example of how a japa mala may be used while reciting mantras:
Find a comfortable seat.
Hold the mala in one hand and let it dangle easily.
Touch the guru bead with your opposite hand.
As you move your fingers to the next bead, breathe in and breathe out.
Each bead gets its own inhale and exhale.
Continue until you feel the guru bead again.
B E N E FI T S O F U S I N G M A L A B E A D S
1. Japa meditation reduces stress and calms the mind
The combination of deep breathing, sacred sound and the slow steady rhythm of a Japa meditation practice has inherent and synergistic calming properties. This practice creates entrainment of the mind to induce specific brainwave states. Japa meditation is the easiest and most effective way to activate the slower brainwave states of Alpha (focus and learning), Theta (creativity and intuition) and Delta (healing and calming).
2. Your heart loves meditation
Advanced yogis have been known to slow their heartbeats down to unbelievable rates and studies on meditation have shown it to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and the risk of heart disease and stroke. In short, meditation has a powerful and profound effect on your physical heart.
3. Meditation improves concentration and focus
The technique of meditation is simple, but the practice is difficult due to the amount of focus and concentration required. Just like how exercising a muscle makes it stronger, meditation likewise strengthens your mind. Japa is the best meditation for the mind as it utilizes multiple points of focus: the breath, the mantra, and the touch and movement of the mala beads.
4. Meditation reduces negative thoughts and improves mood
Research shows that the vast majority of our thoughts are negative. Worst, the repetition of negative thought patterns in our minds strengthens them and increases feelings of sadness, anger, grief, and loneliness. Mantra meditation’s repetition of positive and sacred Sanskrit syllables replaces negative thinking and creates new positive patterns in our mind.
5. Mantra meditation cultivates positive emotions
Research studies have shown that meditators have higher levels of kindness, compassion, and empathy than non-meditators. Amazingly, the areas of the brain associated with these positive emotions have shown to increase in gray matter density with as little as 8-weeks of meditation practice.
6. Mantras increase shakti, grit, and resilience
With continued practice, Japa meditation cultivates a deep inner-strength and inner-power that may surprise you. Mantras contain and activate shakti energy, but it is only through the repetition of these potent mantras that this energy can build up over time to be perceived. Committing to a 40-day practice of Japa meditation will further increase your inner-strength, life-force energy, and resilience.
B E A D S & M E DI T A T I O N
Meditation positively affects the brain and mood and practitioners report feeling relaxed, having better-focused attention, and enhanced self-awareness. Consider the pose Malasana, commonly cued as “Yogi Squat.” The yogi squats and brings the hands to the heart, representing a single bead on the mala necklace, the yogi is small, individual, and unique. Just like each of the beads that are intimately connected to all the others through the string of the mala, the yogi is intimately connected to all other beings. This is the reminder of this pose: though individually we are special, together we are stronger!
Similar to praying with rosary beads, meditating with a Japa mala has been shown to help slow respiration and encourage well-being. Repeating the mantra of your choosing redirects the mind from daily obsessions and introduces positive thought patterns. Similar devices have been used for generations in a variety of spiritual traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, or Islam.
H O W T O C H O O S E T H E R I G H T S T O N E S
Malas are often used as decorations, jewelry, or during seated meditation. These beautiful necklaces often hold special significance for the bearer based on where they got it, why they chose the stone, and the energy resonance they feel with the beads. Before choosing a specific gemstone for your mala, you can look at the gemstones meaning. But there are more ways to choose the best gemstone for yourself. Now I hear you thinking, ‘How to choose the right stone?’ You can choose the right stone in different ways. For example, look at your birthstone, make your choice based on the 7 chakra system or choose on an intention. A whole other way of choosing a gemstone is to close your eyes and think strongly about the intention you have. When the intention that you have is all around in your mind, open your eyes and see which stone attracts you the most. This is what we prefer, choose with your own intuition.
T H E P O W E R O F G E M S T O N E S
The gemstones and crystals have healing properties that help to balance the body, mind, and spirit. Healing crystals and gemstones have been used for thousands of years by ancient civilizations; the Egyptians, Aztecs, and others incorporated them into jewelry, cosmetics, decorative statues, amulets, and much more--a testament to their powerful ability to release mental, physical, and spiritual blockages.
Both our bodies and healing crystals have energetic vibrations, which makes us naturally receptive to the vibrations of gemstones as they can align our own vibrations with theirs. This is why healing crystals and gemstones have a powerful vibratory effect when placed directly on your body. This energy surges from the crystal to you, which facilitates the free flow of energy throughout the body.
Formed deep within the heart of the Earth, gemstones contain an incredible amount of wisdom from experiencing the many transformations over millions and millions of years. When you understand crystal meanings and their specific properties, you'll be able to harness the full potential of their healing energy. All healing crystals serve a similar purpose, which is to guide us towards our highest potential, but among the hundreds of different types, each one has their own unique vibration and healing effects on the mind-body-spirit.