What are prayer beads and why use a mala?

Prayer beads have been around for centuries and used in various religious faiths around the world. Different traditions use different types of prayer beads. Typically, prayer beads are used as a tool to count breaths, mantras, or repetitions of prayer.

There is a lot of information available about the significance and meaning of mala beads, how to activate a mala and how to hold it and use it during meditation. Just like many other religious traditions, one can get caught up in the specifics of “the right way” to do something. We propose that it is in the actual intention and exercise of using the mala as a tool for practicing presence that matters most.

Here at One Single Breath, we focus on the Japamala or mala, which typically has 108 beads, plus one additional bead called a guru bead, used by Buddhists, Hindus, yogis, and those interested in incorporating a daily spiritual practice. Mala beads can be used to focus during meditation on your breath or a mantra, bring more intention and concentration to your pranayama practice, or placed at the top of your yoga mat or on a block as a reminder of your intentions as you practice your yoga asana. Even if you choose to not actively use your mala for meditation, wearing your mala necklace or bracelet still serves a purpose. Wearers of mala beads can instantly be reminded to be present when looking at the beads on their wrist, feeling the weight of the mala necklace on ones chest, or even just stroking the tassel on a mala necklace. It serves as an immediate prompt to just take one single breath. That one breath can allow you to be fully present in the now.

“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action.” – Eckhart Tolle

We recommend choosing a mala that speaks to you, whether it is the color of the beads, the meaning of the stones that are used, or even just the way it makes you feel when you look at it. Trust your intuition as you make a selection. There is no wrong way to choose your mala. The more you use your mala beads, the greater the connection you will feel to the power and energy of the stones.