Traditionally a mala—which means “garland”—has 108 beads strung together and one “guru bead,” which is larger than the rest. The guru bead is used as a place marker for the fingers to feel for the end or the beginning of the necklace for meditation or mantra chanting. Sometimes there are special or different shaped beads placed after every 27th bead to make it easier to keep track of the mantra. You’ll often also find bracelets and decorative necklaces with 54 or 27 beads, half and a quarter of the 108 respectively.
Nowadays, malas are made out of a variety of materials including wood, seeds, stones, pearls, and crystals.
Meditation positively affects the brain and mood and practitioners report feeling relaxed, having better focused attention, and enhanced self-awareness. Consider the pose Malasana, commonly cued as “Yogi Squat.” The yogi squats and brings the hands to the heart, representing a single bead on the mala necklace, the yogi is small, individual, and unique. Just like each of the beads that are intimately connected to all the others through the string of the mala, the yogi is intimately connected to all other beings. This is the reminder of this pose: though individually we are special, together we are stronger.
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