Mala beads are used for mantra meditation. It’s a spiritual tool that will help you keep track of the number of mantra recitations and provide structure for your practice. You hold a bead, repeat a sound or sentence and move on to the next one.

A japa mala is a string of beads that is used for meditation. It will help you learn to focus on one thing, an important skill you cultivate in meditation.

Traditionally, in a meditation you recite a mantra 108 times as the mala has 108 beads. In yoga the number 108 is an sacred number and it represents completion.

A japa mala

How to sit for meditation

Start by finding a comfortable seat on the floor or on your yoga mat. Make sure the hips are higher than the knees by sitting on a block or meditation pillow. Use blankets to support the knees or the hips. The chest is lifted, the chin points slightly down and the crown of the head is aligned with the spine. This will prevent your back from slouching and allow blood to flow into your legs. We’re aiming for a steady but comfortable seat.

How to hold the mala beads

Take the mala with your right hand and find the guru bead, which is the bigger bead with a tassel attached. This is where your mantra meditation will start and end.

Place the middle finger and the thumb around the first bead next to the guru bead. 

The guru bead

Decide which mantra you would like to recite

I recommend to start with a one syllable mantra such as the seed (bija) mantras. Bija mantras are sounds that correspond with the chakras:

  • Root chakra: lam
  • Sacral chakra: vam
  • Solar plexus chakra: ram
  • Heart chakra: yam
  • Throat chakra: ham
  • Third eye chakra: aum
  • Crown chakra: om 

The second option is to repeat affirmations such as:

I love myself

I am supported

I trust myself

As your practice grows, you can recite longer mantras like Vedic mantras. Vedic mantras are Sanskrit sentences that serve different purposes: to praise the Hindu god and goddesses, to help you cultivate certain traits or attract things like wealth and creativity for instance.

The most well-known mantra is the Gayatri mantra. It cultivates peace and wisdom for all people around the world:

Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha

Tat Savitur Varenyam

Bargo Devasy Dhimahi

Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodoyat

How to perform the mantra meditation

Place the middle finger and the thumb around the first bead next to the guru bead. Recite or chant the first mantra, breath and move on to the next one.

If you want to go full Hare Krishna-style, you can keep the japa mala in a bag (‘Gomukhi’) while you chant the mantra or repeat it silently in your head. This way the beads are kept clean and off the floor.

Repeat this until you reach the guru bead again. This is one round and will take you between 6 tot 10 minutes, depending on the length of the mantra.

Take a moment of silence and feel if you would like to do another round or end the meditation.

Let me know if you have used mala beads for meditation and how it went? Were you able to stay focussed? Did the use of the mala beads help?

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