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How Mala Beads Support Your Practice

Updated: Jun 10, 2021


FIRST, WHAT IS A MALA?

A mala is typically a string of 108 “counting beads” used in meditation to count

mantras or chants. 108 is considered a sacred number in Hinduism but you can also

find hand malas with 27 beads or multiples of 9 such as 36, 45, etc. 108 bead malas

are the ones most people are familiar with as they have also become a yoga fashion

statement in recent years! There is an additional bead called a “guru bead” which joins

the beads into a circle to form a necklace or bracelet with the addition of a tassel.


HOW TO USE A MALA

A Hindu mala is usually worked by using the right hand. The mala is held resting over

the third finger of the right hand and the beads are brought toward you, one by one,

using the thumb. Each bead counts one repetition of the mantra. When you get to the

guru bead you do not count it, and you do not pass it; you stop there, mentally bow to

the guru, flip the mala around and start going back the other way. Each time you come

to the guru bead you awaken once more, then you turn around and go back the way

you came!


WHICH HAND DO I USE MY MALA WITH?

Because of certain cultural traditions in India the right hand is used whether you are

right or left handed. The Tibetans, on the other hand, have no such rules; they use

their mala in either hand, and with any finger.


In the Hindu tradition you can use any finger of the right hand to hold the beads except

for the first finger, which is the pointing or “accusing” finger; you do not want to use

that one! The reason most people use the third finger to drape the beads over is that

there is a nerve inside of that finger which is connected to your spine in such a way

that you are getting a little added benefit from the practice. It is similar to an

acupressure point, and it adds a little extra energy rush to the process.


A MALA ADDS ANOTHER DIMENSION TO YOUR PRACTICE

Doing a mantra meditation doesn’t require using a mala, but it can add another

dimension to your practice. Not only will you be silently repeating your mantra but you

could say a mala is a “kinesthetic cue device.”! Without it, you could get lost rep

ting your mantra, doing it mechanically, but when you suddenly feel the bead between

your fingers, it wakes you up and brings your attention back to the mantra. I also find

that it takes me just the right amount of time to complete my 30 minute primordial

sound meditation practice!


NAMASTE

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