The Anatomy of a Mala Necklace
Malas always have 108 Beads. There are also variations of malas like pocket malas or mala bracelets and they may have 27 beads or 54 beads, or any multiple of 9, as 9 is a sacred number in Yoga. But why 108? I’m so glad you asked! 108 is a sacred number in many religions and cultures. There are so many connections to the number 108 that you could read on for days about this lovely number!
- According to traditional Buddhism, 108 represents the number of mortal desires of mankind which one must overcome to achieve Nirvana.
- Mala Beads are often used as a meditation tool. For this purpose, there are 108 beads so that a mantra can be recited 100 times as you move your fingers along the beads. Because it can be hard to count and stay on track, there are 8 extra beads to allow for any mantras that may have been missed.
A high quality mala necklace will have knots hand-tied between each bead. Some Malas only have the beads strung on a cord or may have spacer beads between the beads to simulate real knots. So why the knots?
- Knots allow your finger to move easily over each bead when the mala is used for meditation.
- They create space to protect the stones from rubbing against each other
- Knots secure your mala beads… if your mala ever breaks, you won’t lose all your beads! You can restring them!
- knots allow for the mala to lay gracefully when worn as a necklace
The Marker Beads
What are marker beads? Should I use them? Marker beads are totally optional and they do have a meaning beyond just creating a beautiful pattern. You can place accent beads at certain points along your mala and use them as markers to help you know where you are during your meditation. We also like placing a charm after bead #54 which is the halfway point in your mala.
The purpose of using markers is to dial you back into your meditation and help you refocus if you begin to stray. Markers are totally optional though and definitely a personal preference! MeraKalpa Mala Kits come with all 108 beads in 1 gemstone but you can always customize your kit and add other stones as markers or create patterns as you like!
The Guru Bead
Also called the “Meru Bead” which translates to “Mountain Bead”, the Guru Bead in your mala is the 109th bead. It is not counted as part of the 108 beads. The Guru Bead is your teacher, it said to hold your prayers and intentions.
When using a Mala for meditation, you would start by holding your guru bead and setting your intention for your practice. You would them use the mala for your meditation as you breathe or count a mantra over each bead. When you finish your meditation or breathwork, you can “seal” your practice as you rest holding your guru bead and holding space for your intention.
Guru Beads are made of many different types of materials. MeraKalpa Mala Kits include a Tibetan Silver bead with a beautiful filigree design. This silver bead is a great choice if you want the focus to be on your Mala Beads. Another option (our favorite!) is to choose a gemstone for your guru bead. You can choose a gemstone that represents your intentions and something that you will connect to in your practice. For example, if you have a Rose Quartz Mala (for unconditional love, self love) you could choose an Amazonite stone for your guru bead to represent a commitment you are making to connect to your truest self, and to speak your truth. Often times self-love meanings speaking up for yourself and expressing to others what you need.
Mala Beads are commonly finished with a tassel, often made of silk or cotton. The tassel represents connection to spirit, or your highest truth. Tassels are not only beautiful and meaningful, they can also serve a secondary purpose of diffusing your favorite essential oils.
Diffusing lavender oil on the tassel of the Calm & Peace Mala gives you an additional element of de-stressing, and can help soothe anxiety and calm an overactive mind.
Malas can also be made without a tassel. You may choose to simply finish your mala with the guru bead and skip the tassel, or you may finish your mala with a charm instead. Your Mala design is completely up to you!