What are mala beads?

Mala beads can be worn for a calmer body, mind and spirit, a reflection of your spirituality or religious beliefs, to use as a meditation or mantra/affirmation tool, or for properties, energies, and meaning behind the gemstones and crystals used. Malas can be a reflection of ones journey, becoming whatever the wearer intends for it.

When I sought to start making mala beads, I wanted to create them in a way that honours authenticity. Traditional malas have been around for centuries, + feature the significant overhand knotting style. Not only does this honor the true meaning of a mala, but the knots between the beads make the mala stronger (always keep this in mind when shopping for a mala, especially if they’re strung on wire, as these don’t reflect the true significance of the thread (and if your mala breaks, you will lose all your beads!). Given the added time it takes to knot my malas, I often think of it like a meditation — it may be a tedious process — but one I feel is important + adds quality to your investment.

The knots ALSO prevent the beads from rubbing together + cracking over time; think of them as representing life's challenges — the knots falling between the smoother, more beautiful aspects of life.  They can signify the divine connection amongst all beings in the universe — + even when times are challenging, these knots serve to remind us that all aspects of life are linked + supported in the universal “sutra” of life. How’s THAT for power + meaning?

And what about that thread? “Sutra" in Sanskrit means “suture” or “to hold together”.  The thread (I always use high quality nylon to ensure your knots stay tight over time!) running through the mala holds + supports the beads. These overhand knots can then be thought to represent the cosmic + creative forces that supports + sustains every part + every being within the universe.

Now, a little on MY Zen Gems designs — I strive to blend both modern + traditional styles. I believe that the practice of adorning + accessorising should make us feel good + should have meaning. Each Zen Gems mala necklace is made completely one of a kind (no two are the same), with quality, genuine gemstones (never dyed), plated hematite spacers/accents, + handmade tassels or pendants.

What is significant about the number of beads?

All of my malas are made to specific spiritual numbers: 108/72/54. Multiples of 9 are considered to be spiritually auspicious numbers.

  • Some believe there are 108 stages on the journey of the human soul
  • Others associate the possibility of enlightenment with taking only 108 breaths a day, while in deep meditation.
  • In relation to the chakras (the seven energy points in our body); It has been said there are 108 energy lines connecting to the heart, with one of them believed to be the path to self-realization.
  • There are said to be 108 earthly desires.
  • When using your mala beads in meditation and chanting your mantra, some have said you are complete once you have done it 100 times. The 8 extra beads are to account for errors. Or even more beautiful, are meant to be an offering to your guru.
  • Many choose to recite their mantra in sanskrit, the ancient script of India. Within the Sanksrit alphabet there are 54 letters. Each letter has a feminine and masculine version — totalling 108.

Using a mala for meditation:

Mala meditation is known as japa meditation.  Beginning at the guru bead of the mala (the larger bead at its base), or the pendant, drape the first mala bead (the one adjacent to the guru on your right) in between your thumb and middle finger.  Use your thumb to slide the first mala bead down and move to the next bead. Repeat this movement for a count of 108, 54, 27, or 21 beads. During this process you may choose to focus on your breathing, moving past each mala bead as you take an in breath or an out breath. As you do so the mala acts an object that aids in a single pointed focus on your breath. In other meditations, you may wish to focus on something that you wish for in yourself or something you wish to understand about yourself. If you repeat this 108 times over one meditation, several weeks of meditation, or longer you will notice a shift in your consciousness and energy state.

Other common uses:

Many people choose to use their mala in contexts outside of seated meditation. Wearing a mala as a bracelet or necklace is common. This helps keep your affirmations or intentions with you throughout the day. People may choose to carry their mala in a mala bag that is kept in a pocket or purse as another way of keeping their practice with them as they move through their lives. Other people keep their mala in their meditation shrine when it is not in use. A mala can become a beautiful feature of your sacred space, adding color, texture, and intention to your shrine. Finally, some people take their mala to yoga practice and coil it at the top of their yoga mats or wear it during the practice. They believe this helps the mala absorb the energy of their physical practice and helps them carry their yoga practice with them when off the mat. Whichever way you choose to use your mala, mala beads can be a representative object of your intentions or affirmations and are powerful for helping focus the mind on that which you most hope to develop through your yoga and meditation practice.