Mala beads are simply a string of beads that are used in meditation practice. They are also extremely popular stylish necklaces that can be worn at any time! Much like a rosary, they are used as a tool to help you count the mantra’s or prayers you recite while sitting in silence. They can also be used to guide you through breathing exercises. Traditionally a mala will have 108 beads, and be made of gemstone with a tassel at the end, which is a combination of multiple cotton strands, all tied together. The tassel represents our connection to one another! Some traditionally crafted malas will feature hand knotting, which will make the necklace stronger but also provides a space to pause between mantra. Mala necklaces have been used for over 3000 years to help spiritual practitioners and Yoga enthusiasts keep their mind centered. The first malas were found in India and have their roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. But these days malas are recognized as a symbol of peace and closeness to the earth and god, so are worn by people of all religious backgrounds. Many will use mala to enhance their meditation experience during Yoga. Even for those who do not plan to meditate or pray with their mala necklace, it can serve as a reminder of your intentions! Malas are often made of gemstones, and different gemstones have different properties, so many people will purchase Malas to assist with healing properties as well.
There are many reasons people say that 108 beads are used. Often it is mentioned that multiples of 108 are a sign for life. There are 108 lines that converge to form the heart chakra. There are said to be 108 goddesses in Hinduism. The diameter of the sun is 108 times that of the earth. Often, a 109th bead is added before the tassel, called the Guru bead, that represents the teacher.
As a convenient alternative to mala necklaces, 27 bead wrist malas, or prayer bracelets have become extremely popular lately as well!