How do you look after your mental health? There was a time I would scroll online, message my friends or download some positive affirmative quotes trying to find the answer. With 1 in 4 people going through mental health un-wellbeing, learning and understanding how to look after ourselves are more important than ever. There’s no shame in the name, and we must normalise the experiences of everyone feeling lesser than, out of place or internally scattered.
We are overwhelmed with having to save the planet, our people and ourselves. But if you aren’t prioritising yourself to be the best in your mental and emotional state, then you can’t be of any help to others, mala use can be a great tool to switch your mindset and get out of any negative energy, to clear it and move through.
For those that already use mala in their own practice and are looking to try different stones, crystal healing properties or choosing their first mala, it can be an exciting part of your spiritual growth, used in personal transformation, mantra meditation, stress relief and part of your yoga or meditation practice.
But how to choose your mala or even why do people use mala beads?
Mala beads have been around for a very long time indeed, some say from the 8 century BCE in India and many of today’s religions use beads in prayer or meditation. It’s good to note that you don’t have to be religious to wear or use mala. It is important, though, to understand their use and respect the significance.
I was gifted my first mala beads from my temple and they are still pretty special to me, I keep them for those times when I want to get back to basics and remember the journey! Even opening the bag, I can smell the incense from the temple and I just love to use them, they are very traditional and take to me back to those days in Hong Kong when I sat in Sesshin meditation and felt at home. Whilst working in the fast paced fashion industry, full of egos and very highly stressed individuals, the balance of yoga and going to temple, where lets face it, every one is so kind, full of gratitude and balanced led me down my path.
The beads in a traditional mala are Rudraksha seeds, produced by several species of large evergreen trees. In the yogic tradition, these beads are used in japa mala practice, reciting mantras in meditation. In my temple in Hong Kong our traditional beads are slightly different with Sandalwood, but like rosary beads, prayer beads, they are all created as a guide for the mind, to help switch focus for meditation or to recite prayers and mantras.
For yogis - they can be used as a catalyst to clear the mind, connect to your breath - no spiritual meaning - a tool to help you focus and reset quickly whilst connecting to your inner self. A full cycle of 108 repetitions is counted on the mala so the practitioner can focus on the sounds, vibrations, and meaning of what is being said, without having to also count in your head or set a timer on your phone, which I found is a great way to guide the mind to quiet or even without words at all, to use my breath in repetition and not go near my phone in the morning.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR MALA?
There are actually many different types of mala beads and formats, from necklaces to bracelets and each has special characteristics and also mala means something different to each person.
It can be a tool for meditation, a reminder of a special intention, a piece that inspires you, or a beautiful manifestation of a feeling, you may feel very drawn to a special stone or even to help you quit a bad habit. A lovely way to begin a meditation practice, you want to feel happy and joyful picking up your beads. Which is why when I was approach by our fair wage manufacturer, I just loved their story… the idea of making beautiful, crystal healing malas and helping these women by using their work to empower their community and support their families through empowering us, the user, with tools that ultimately will bring peace and joy, it was a no-brainer, what a beautiful idea.
So, ask yourself, what brings you joy? Sometimes simply finding a combination of stones or crystals that bring you peace and joy or ground you are particularly appealing. If you feel drawn to something, trust it, feel the vibration from certain crystals or those that inspire healing or love.. For example, rose quartz for healing, for grounding, black obsidian… being drawn to the higher plains? Moonstone is a high vibration stone… follow your gut feeling.
Do you need full 108 repetitions? In a traditional mala necklace, there are 108 repetition beads with spacer beads and there is a 109th bead that hangs at the bottom of a mala, called the guru bead. This often symbolizes the guru from whom the student received the mala or mantra, paying homage to the student-guru relationship. It is never counted among the repetitions but used as a marker for a start and end of a cycle. Some poeple use the guru as a point to rotate back over the mala and never pass over it - you can watch the video below to see that technique in action.
108 IS CONSIDERED A SACRED NUMBER FOR MANY REASONS.
In all cultures there is a special significance with the number 108, it is a particularly significant number in the mathematics of the universe (which always blows my mind). For example, the diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth and the average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters. Mathematicians from the Vedic tradition came to view 108 as the number representing the wholeness of existence.
In the human body there are 108 marma points, considered to be sacred places in the body. In Ayurveda, these pressure points are seen as vital for giving life to living beings for it is at these points that consciousness and flesh intersect. Additionally, there are 108 nadis, or energy lines, which converge to form the heart chakra. Placing significance on the number 108 embraces the life-giving energy so vital for human existence.
Sun salutations are often performed in nine rounds of the 12 postures which totals 108 poses. A yoga mala consists of 108 sun salutations. Most traditional based malas have 108 beads and a guru, our bracelets are based on this number and have the guru for repetitions. As well as holding the ability to help you tap into energy with each of mala’s unique gemstones, using a mala during your yoga practice or meditation can help you feel more connected with the universe and focus your mind and breath as you flow through your practice.
Most people would use their necklace for meditation and every day use, and wear their bracelet mala as a reminder for goal setting, intentions and manifestations. They can be excellent reminders for those giving up smoking of other bad habits, as a token on your wrist of your goal! Bracelets can be used in an instant for stressful situations, simply counting your breaths when you get angry or switching your mindset when you are trying to manifest happy thoughts.
A simple and common example of a Sanskrit mantra often chanted at the end of a yoga class would be ‘Om Shanti Om’ - the peace mantra - which is a calling out to connect us with inner peace and is a great one to start with - or simply, ‘Om’ if you have a certain goal you are working towards, a word such as ‘love’ or ‘calm’ can also be a great place to start. Let the below recording guide you, the slower pace, the vibration of the mantra repeating, take it all in, you can chant along.
I also recently read an English guide from the 1910s to meditation, which gives a great example of mantra use in starting your practice, which I found pretty powerful, you might want to try it for a week of morning meditations, with each turn of a mala bead, “I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious and happy”. Such a great mantra to put yourself into an excellent headspace, you can learn by heart and any time you are feeling negative thoughts come into play, repeat the above.
A full repetition of 108 beads on a necklace will take you around 15-20 minutes, depending on how long your mantra is or using your breath - to slow… come into the present moment… use your mala as a catalyst to connect with your true essence and play with different ways to keep your practice engaging.
MALA BEADS FOR YOUR INTENTION:
Each mala has been designed and created to bring balance and the mixture of different elements to the user, even the order of our stones have been designed to work through your energy. Crystals and stones have been used in healing for thousands of years, each stone having a unique colour, vibration and effect on the body. There are so many different properties, but here is a highlight of the stones we use in our malas.
If you feel particularly drawn to a stone or combination, that intuition is usually a great place to start. For example our most popular mala, Eros, named after the god of love, is all about reconnecting to the abundance of love within you and building self-love, confidence and positivity, being able to speak your truth and connect to universal love, I can see why people are drawn to the stones!
Mantra for Eros “I am full of endless love”
Our most healing mala, Circe, is a combination of Amethyst, with spacers and neck stones of Prehnite with beautiful Lemon Quartz. Amethyst, from the beautiful quartz family, brings healing, protection, love and strength, moving into lemon quartz spacers as you move through the beads in your hand, to bring clarity, higher vibration, and positivity, back to Amethyst and then to Prehnite, a stone of love, peace and calm, this combination is wonderful to work with, healing and building confidence.
Mantra for Circe “I am whole, perfect, strong, powerful, loving, harmonious and happy”