You’ve probably seen them: those boho babes with their beachy waves and bracelets lining up their wrists and those long, beautiful, beaded necklaces with little tassels at the bottom. Some people see them as beautiful fashion accessories; I mean how could you ever go wrong wearing a long beaded necklace, usually created with some form of gemstone or other natural material? It’s the perfect accessory to your yoga ensemble or boho chic attire.
Ashleigh and I (Kate) attended a wellness show, where I overheard a woman telling her husband “I want one of those long necklaces, you know, the ones with the string at the end? You can wrap them around your wrist and it looks like a big bracelet.”
There’s absolutely no harm in seeing these necklaces for what they look like; beautiful jewelry. However, I am sure most people were not aware that they are called “Malas” and are a useful aid in your meditation practice.
Traditionally, malas are created using 108 beads, one guru bead (such as a Buddha, crystal, or other symbol) and a tassel. The number 108 is significant in many different ways. In some schools of Buddhism, it is believed that human beings are capable of 108 feelings. In Japan at the end of the year, a bell is rung 108 times in Buddhist temples to signify the end of the old year and welcome the new one. Each ring of the bell is a representation of 1 of 108 earthly desires a person must prevail over in order to achieve nirvana.
In the Sanskrit alphabet, there are 54 letters as opposed to the 26 letters in the English alphabet. Each of these Sanskrit letters have a masculine and feminine variation (a Shiva and a Shakti), so in reality, the Sanskrit alphabet is 54 letters x 2 = 108.
Two of your Niyamamas, Ash and I, registered to take a Mala Making Workshop with Julie Lockhart-Thompson at Fountain of Youth Yoga and Wellness Centre in Whitby. There, we were given an explanation of the meaning behind the use of 108 beads, how to use a mala in meditation, and how to choose the gemstone beads to make your mala. We were also provided with all the necessary materials to complete a mala of our very own.
The beads we chose to complete our malas with are those that had the most important meaning for us. Each gemstone has its own metaphysical properties, so if you feel yourself drawn to a certain stone, there could be a reason behind it. It’s important to research the different properties of the different stones you could use in order to understand why you are drawn to them, or to choose them based on the intentions they represent.
The malas we created were completed using the double knotting technique. This means that there is a double knot separating each bead. This makes the process a lot more time consuming; however it gives your mala a longer appearance and makes it easier to recite your mantra. Generally, when you are in meditation your eyes are closed and holding one bead, you recite your mantra, and then slide your fingers to the next bead, and so on. The idea is to recite your mantra 108 times. Having the double knots separating your beads helps to keep you in your correct place.
Once you reach the guru bead, you are to stop and carry on with counting in the opposite direction. This is because when you reach the guru bead you are to take the time to reflect on the awareness that you should have in every aspect of life, and take a moment to reflect on the importance of your mantra and your intentions and motivation for sitting in meditation. The guru bead is said to carry the energy of your mantra, and you should touch it whenever you require a boost in that specific energy.
The tassel is found at the end of the guru bead (in the image below we tested replacing the tassel with a wrapped crystal for a different look). There are a few different interpretations of the meaning of the tassel, but the one I like most is the idea of a lotus flower. The tassel can be said to represent the roots of a lotus flower, which blooms beautifully even in the dirtiest, ugliest looking swamps. The roots of the flower are below the water, uncontrollable and messy, as your tassel is sure to get after much use
We have found our malas to be an important addition to our meditation practice. As they can be pretty pricey to buy, it may be in your best interest to create your own. It is definitely a relaxing exercise, and we have since found beading to be one of our favourite stress-relieving activities. See some of our bracelets we have also been working on below