Mala beads have quickly become a popular trend in yoga fashion, but it is important to understand that they are rooted in ancient Indian history, and have a functional purpose as well. For thousands of years, malas have been used as a way to concentrate during meditation. The use of these “prayer beads” — called japa malas — spread to many cultures beyond Hinduism and Buddhism, and are now used in spiritual practices throughout the world as rosaries and worry beads.

Besides being a beautiful piece of jewelry and a representation of your yoga practice or spiritual beliefs, a mala is a sacred tool designed to support your meditation practice.

Mala beads are a tactile focus that help you count your breath or mantra, as you pass the beads through your fingers one by one.

Why meditate?

In our ever-changing and over-stimulating modern lives, it is easy to become distracted by the many fluctuations of the world around us. Meditation has been proven to help calm the mind in a way that allows us to handle the inevitable turbulence of life with more steadiness and ease. However, meditation can be intimidating to approach and challenging to sustain. Recitation of mantra, called japa, or simple breath counting can be powerful tools to help you stay focused when the mind moves rapidly from one thought to the next while trying to sit still and stay silent. If you don’t have mantras of your own, an experienced teacher can help you choose an appropriate prayer that promotes grounding and balance in both your life and yoga practice.

How do I choose the right mala?

The Earth energy of the stones, seeds or wooden beads, combined with heartfelt intention and practical technique, can open doors to intimate and lasting experiences of bliss and presence. Choose a mala that “calls” to you. Being physically and energetically attracted to your mala will help to inspire a consistent practice and remind you of your unique and sacred spiritual journey as you move through your daily life. Your mala is so much more than an adornment; it’s a tool of support and inspiration as you work to refine aspects of yourself and your life. It’s your guide as you grow closer to knowing your most subtle essence of your truth and bliss. 

There is no shortage of options — from simple to stunning — when choosing a mala. It is even said that the mala actually chooses you. The mala that is meant to be yours will speak to your heart, and remind you that, beyond all mundane distractions, you are a spiritual being having a human experience. So listen to your heart and remember that, although your spiritual experience is unique to you, it is also divinely connected to all things. Your community, your mala, and the profound practice of yoga — all which have stood the test of time — are always available for you.

Sara Ward

Sara Ward lives in Honolulu and is an E-RYT and Mala Designer. Her passion is helping people express their unique individual and spiritual path while remaining grounded in a deep and sacred connection to all things.


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