You’ve likely seen yogis sporting a string of beads wrapped around their wrists. You may see yogis wearing these beads as necklaces. Some yogis even wear them like a sash. In the spirit of yoga, we are often told to release attachments to materialism. When we see yogis wearing these beads like jewelry, it seems contradictory. However, it’s impossible to let go of all material attachments as we have physical human bodies. But these beads aren’t just pieces of jewelry. They aid in a method of meditation.
Mala is a Sanskrit term for garland. The mala beads we see yogis wearing can also be called Japa Malas. Japa means to repeat or chant with intentional devotion. Japa Malas are strings of 108 beads that yogis use to meditate. 108 is a sacred and symbolic number in many Eastern religions. Check out the many meanings for 108 here: http://www.swamij.com/108.htm
The 108 beads may be lotus seeds, a specific stone, or just knots on a rope. Many Japa Malas are created with stones that have specific symbolism or meanings. Choosing a stone can help you foster a specific meaning in your life. Turquoise is a great example. From Austin jeweler, Alyson Simms’s website Atma’s Offerings (the best local Japa Mala dealer in Austin), turquoise “bestows overall well-being to the wearer. Related to compassion and forgiveness, it is thought to restore vitality, heal the emotional body, aid in communication, and inspire one to act out of truth.”
Wearing your chosen stone can help you foster its qualities during the day. It’s always a great reminder for me to connect with my intentions/truth for the time being. It’s a bit like bringing meditation to your every waking moment.
Now the question is…how do I meditate with Japa Mala beads?
Sit comfortably in a meditative seat. Try sitting in a chair OR on the ground with crossed legs. Hold the Japa Mala in one hand. Grab the “Guru Bead” (the bead where the tassel is to show you when the garland ends/begins.) This bead will let you know that you have meditated through the entire string of 108 beads. Trust it. Choose an intention for your meditation. For example, silently or audibly repeat the word LOVE as you inhale and PEACE as you exhale. Hold one bead between your thumb and finger for a breath. That means you hold the bead while you meditate on love and peace, then move your fingers to the next bead and repeat your chanting. This approach will help you practice focusing your mind. It takes me about 15 minutes to meditate on an entire Japa Mala with this technique. The length of your meditation will depend on the length of your breaths. You can choose any words or longer mantras to focus on.
Bring some color and focus into your life with the gorgeous Indian Japa Malas from Atma’s Offerings. Check out Alyson’s offerings and get to work! Happy meditating!