Sunday, August 6, 2017
WHAT IS A MALA ANYWAY?
Admit it. You've shopped for a beautiful mat in your favorite color, maybe with a design that appealed to you. You might just throw on a pair of loose pants and T-shirt -- I do some days -- but you might also try on a number of yoga pants in all the cool colors, maybe also with a little secret pocket in the waistband. (What are those for anyway? What can possibly fit in there??? Certainly not my giant iPhone 6s!) There are zillions of yoga top options -- racer back spandex, soft flowing shirts with "om" symbols emblazoned on the front, the ubiquitous lotus flower -- all in a plethora of colors.
And I'm sure you've noticed some people wear beaded bracelets, many with a colorful tassel. You might even notice sometimes a beaded necklace with a similar feathery tassel at the bottom. Now we are in mala territory.
A mala is a string of beads used for meditation. The long "necklace" malas have 108 beads -- the auspicious number of repetitions of a mantra. While reciting the mantra, the practitioner touches one bead for every repetition until completing a cycle of 108. Many malas are shorter, with a fewer number of beads for shorter mantra meditation. Bracelets also fall into this category. Repetitions should always be to a count of 7, 21, 28, or 108.
Doing mala mantra meditation is called doing "Japa". From Wikipedia: "Japa" is a Sanskrit word for the meditative repetition of a mantra or a divine name. It is a practice found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Janism, and Sikhism. The mantra or name may be spoken softly, enough for the practitioner to hear it, or it may be spoken within the reciter's mind."
Some might even carry their mala in a "japa bag" which they wear around their necks sort of like a small purse. I've seen folks sitting quietly, hand inside their japa bag, doing japa meditation on the bus, or at a meal, or listening to music, even in conversation. Many find it calming.
I have a number of malas -- both the long "necklace" variety and the short bracelets. I love wearing them as decorative jewelry honoring my spiritual traditions. But I also use them, the long ones especially, for mantra meditation. I was given a mantra by my meditation teacher years ago. When my mind is especially playing "monkey" with me, repeating the mantra while also working my mala helps focus both mind and body with a place to rest in the meditation.
At the Yoga Circle Studio store there are lovely malas for sale, made by a local artisan and YCS student. Check them out. These, or any number of many other varieties, might appeal to you as a way to enhance your practice. Plus, they are beautiful!
More mala info: https://www.gaia.com/article/how-use-mala-beads-yoga-and-meditation