What is a mala bead necklace and why do I care?

What are mala beads and how to use them for meditation and lifestyle changes. #ozofsalt #healthymindset #meditation #malabeads #growth #selfcareforwomen


Have you heard of mala beads? What is a mala? A mala bead necklace is a string of 108 beads plus a guru or anchor bead that is commonly used in mantra meditation. The word mala is from the Sanskrit meaning “garland.” What I find interesting about a mala bead necklace is the symbolism it can represent by making and using one. 

example of mala bead necklaces

I can’t say I’m good at meditation in the traditional sense, but through running, I receive the benefits of meditation. While I won’t be holding my beads during my run, I will keep my mala bead necklace on my nightstand as a reminder of the intentions I have set for myself.

Benefits of mala beads

Many people hold mala beads as they repeat a mantra during their meditation. A mantra can be a word, sound, or phrase repeated to aid in your concentration while meditating. When using a mantra, it’s believed that only the positive intentions and actions will fill your mind and eliminate negativity.

Examples of mantras are a word ex. “love,” or an affirmation, such as “I am capable of wonderful things.” It can even be a declaration like “Today I choose joy.” You can choose a mantra for yourself depending on what you are needing in life. You may be looking for positivity, health, happiness, self-love, or simply want to find balance. 

My word of the year is “purpose.” I haven’t come up with a phrase yet, but I’m working on it. My intentions for the year are to serve and inspire people through my actions on a day to day basis. My intentions are also to know who I am, what I am capable of and how I want to feel on a daily basis.

Mala beads are said to have many powerful benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. 

  • Increases focus during meditation.
  • Enhances your self-awareness.
  • Slows down respiration.
  • Beads made of special material can be healing. 
  • An easy way to keep track of the number of mantras recited.
  • Seeing or wearing a mala can serve as a reminder of one’s intention and goals. 

Make a mala bead necklace

Making your own mala bead necklace with friends during a casual intention setting workshop can make space in your mind to think about what you want for your life today, for the year and beyond! It’s also a great way to connect with friends and foster a setting of empowerment and support.

Mala Bead making workshop

My girlfriends and I did this together after a guided meditation and journaling led by my friend, Jodi Ryan.

While we weren’t all in the same place as far as having identified our intentions and goals, the time spent in talking about these topics and making the mala bead necklaces together brought the idea to the front of our minds. Our time together gave us an opportunity to think about the action steps necessary to set our intentions and goals for the year.

What are malas made from?

Malas can be made out of many different materials. The most common types of beads used in a mala are made from wood, seeds, or semi-precious gemstones. Depending on the material used, the properties of the beads will have certain energetic effects. Jodi and I visited a bead shop and picked out a variety of beads, spacers, and stones along with elastic string. I also had beads left over from my Jewelry making theme party.

We used this diagram to guide us in beading a traditional mala necklace. The bottom “1” represents the anchor stone. Seven beads are threaded on each side, followed by a different three, 13, 3, and then 27. The necklace top ends with 2 beads. Spacers do not count as a bead. Within each number of beads, you can use the same type of bead or mix it up. It is really your own preference. 

Why do malas have 108 beads?

There are many theories behind the significance of the number 108. One theory which is the simplest for me to understand is that the number 1 stands for God, the universe or your own highest truth; 0 stands for emptiness and humility in spiritual practice; and 8 stands for infinity and timelessness. The mala bead necklace really becomes whatever the wearer intends for it.

Makes a cool bracelet! You’ve seen these on people’s wrists, right?

How to Use Mala Beads for Meditation

  1. Choose a spot and sit comfortably with your spine straight and your eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths to center and align yourself with your intention.
  2. If you have one, use a mantra for this practice, chanting aloud or silently.
  3. Hold your mala in your right hand, draped between your middle and index fingers. Starting at the guru bead, use your thumb to count each smaller bead, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra. Do this 108 times, traveling around the mala, until you reach the guru bead.

My girlfriends and I discussed how our mala bead necklaces have more meaning after making them together. We can be reminded of the uplifting experience of gathering to share in an experience of self-growth and exploration. Doesn’t this sound like a great way to spend time with friends?

Whether you make mala beads or not, take some time to set your intentions and goals for the year! 

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For more posts about mindset, read my post, Improve the quality of your life with a growth mindset.

“Flavor your life with an Ounce of Salt.” A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.