What Are Mala Beads? | Reclaiming Zen

What Are Mala Beads?

What Are Mala Beads?

Mala beads are a strand of beads they are a tool used for spiritual practice. They have traditionally been used in Japa meditation which is a type of meditation that involves reciting mantras, Japa, which means, “to recite” and the term ‘mala’ is a Sanskrit word for “meditation garland.”


The strand of 108 beads is used for keeping count during mantra meditation. They will often be held in the hand and moved along as between the fingers as each repetition of the mantra is counted, this is done 108 times and the last bead known as the guru bead is used to give gratitude and thanks. Malas can also be made of 27 beads or 21 beads and used in shorted meditation. 


Mala beads have been used by teachers, yogis, and spiritual seekers for many years to help keep their minds focused during meditation.  Mala beads have traditionally been used in Buddhism and Hinduism, the traditional Rudraksha Mala date all the way back to the 10th Century. They have also been known as Buddhist beads and prayer beads.


Mala strands often have 108 beads plus a guru bead, special knot and sometimes a tassel, they are usually used during meditation and prayer but are now used in yoga and to enhance asana practice, they can be  placed at the top of your mat, as a reminder of the intention you are trying to manifest, as you move through your vinyasa. Mala beads can also be worn as a necklace or wrapped around as a bracelet, it is recommended to connect with your mala beads by creating a ritual, to feel the energies and feel protected and aware of your spiritual intentions. Mala beads come in many different designs, they are now being combined with gems stones as they emit different energies. Wearing the Mala as a necklace or as a bracelet throughout the day helps you manifest the power of the stone.


There are many theories behind the use of 108 beads. 108 is considered a sacred number, particularly in Hinduism. We can think of the 1 as the universe, truth, the law of one and one creator, the 0 stands for emptiness and the 8 for infinity and timelessness. Some other examples include the 108 energy lines that converge to form the Heart Chakra or the 108 goddess names, and the diameter of the sun, which is 108 times the diameter of the earth. There are many different theories behind the use of this number.


Mala Beads are a very personal piece and they often reflect the wearers spiritual journey and really become whatever the wearer intends.


During any mindful meditation, Mala beads can be used much like Rosary beads, they can be held between the fingers and  used as a reminder of the practitioner’s place and help with spatial awareness as they move through the meditation.

What Are Mala Beads

Different Types And Styles

Mala beads come in all different shapes, sizes, styles, and colors. With different woods, crystals, and materials. They are usually made with round beads that are about 7-8mm in size. Their shape allows them to easily glide through your fingers.

More traditional malas are made with Rudraksha beads, lotus seed beads, yak bone, bodhi seed or wood. Healing malas will often include different crystals as they emit different energies, properties, and colors.

Malas traditionally have 108 beads, plus a guru bead and sometimes a tassel, however, shorted beads can be found as bracelets often made from 21 or 27 beads. You can get long mala beads with markers at various points so that they can be used for shorted meditation. Mala beads can be worn as a necklace or wrapped around as a bracelet.

Choosing The Best Mala Beads For You

You may want to connect with mala beads but don’t know where to start, don’t worry! It’s a wonderful process and there really is no wrong or right. When choosing a mala, use your intuition first. If a mala appeals to you, it will be the right mala for you at this time.

When mala beads are used for yoga practice they can be picked based on your intuition. For example, if you want to feel more grounded on and off the mat you may choose mala beads that have a grounding stone included such as agate, tourmaline or obsidian.

You may way to choose your mala beads based on color and whichever color stand out to you. This may be beneficial if you are trying to work with specific energy and chakra. For example, if you are trying to work on the heart chakra you may look for mala beads that have green beads or green gemstones.

with so much choice choosing your mala beads may seem confusing and overwhelming. Just trust your intuition and goes with what feels right to you, feel the different energies and go with your intuition. You do not have to limit yourself to one particular set and you may find that you use different mala beads depending on what your intentions are for that day, spiritual practice or meditation.

Here are a few things to think about when you look for your malas:

What are you drawn to?

What are your intentions

What will they be used for? Meditation, yoga on the may, wearing throughout the day, manifestation?

 Is there a particular crystal, color or material that you are draw to or looking for?

How To Use Mala Beads In Meditation

Using Mala beads is simple and enjoyable. We have put together a few steps to help you get started:

1. Decide on your intention or purpose and choose your mala beads.

2. Go to your sacred space or find any comfortable and quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

3. With your Mala beads in your hands close your eyes, sit comfortably, and begin to focus on your breathing.

4. Relax and try to align yourself by focusing on your intention, mantra or affirmation.

5. Hang the first mala bead gently on the middle or ring finger of the right hand. You will find that the mala drapes between your middle and index finger.

6. Place your thumb on the guru bead and begin reciting your mantra (this can be done aloud or silently).

7. Every time you finish your mantra or affirmation push the mala bead away with your thumb and move onto the next bead. Repeat this, traveling around the mala until you reach a count on 7, 21, 27 or 108.

8. If you want to carry on with your mantra meditation do not skip over the guru bead. Simply turn the mala around and move in the opposite direction.

Mala Beads

Mantra Ideas

Using mantras during meditation can help with our focus, cleanse and clear energies and connect us to all that is. Here are a few to get you started: 


1. OM – The hymn of the universe, a powerful mantra that is believed to hold very strong vibrational energy. This mantra connects to universal wholeness as it is believed that when the universe was created Om was the sound with which everything came into being.

2. OM MANI PADME HUM –  A Buddhist prayer sung by Born-in-Lotus Buddha (Guru Padmasambhava) during his search for nirvana.”Om, Mani, Padme, Hum” is considered the source of all things. When chanting “Om” one should try to become one with Buddha. “Mani” represents treasures that will be attracted. “Padme” means lotus and resembles purity and “Hum” means that we must rely on divine energy.

3. SO HUM – I am that – Links perfectly with the inhale and exhale of your breathing.


4. OM NAMAH SHIVAYAH – Calls upon Lord Shiva and helps us to become more self-realized and reflect deep within ourselves.


5. OM SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI – The Om stands for the universe as we discussed above. The Shanti represents peace and it is repeated 3 times to represent peace within 3 parts of us, the mind, the body and the spirit.


Let me know how you get on and what experiences you have all had.

Namaste and always stay Zen


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