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To Celebrate Endings and Beginnings, Do a Yoga Mala

From the yoga studio to a night on the town, people are donning mala bead necklaces around the globe. However, this trend is steeped in meaningful tradition and symbolism. Each mala necklace has 108 beads, and each bead evokes an energetic frequency based on its material, whether stone or seed.

How to Practice a Yoga Mala

A yoga mala is the ultimate moving meditation. It has a repetitive, steady rhythm that helps transcend the purely physical form and move us closer to the unified Self. One body, one mind, one breath. Each forward bend serves as a pranam or devoted prayer to the source. Each vibrant backbend is an emergence of radiant light. The body is the mala, the breath is the mantra.

What is a Mala?

A mala, meaning garland in Sanskrit, evokes a circular, continuous form. In practice, a mala is the devoted offering of repeated cycles (typically in divisors of 108) of mantra or asana. Within a mala, there is always a sense of beginning, continuing and completion. Both inside each individual cycle and in the practice as a whole.

What is the Significance of 108?

The number 108 is seen as significant across a range of cultures and disciplines. It informs the architecture of sacred texts that are central to yoga and eastern philosophy: there are 108 chapters of the Rig Veda, 108 Upanishads and 108 primary Tantras. In in the field of Ayurveda, there are 108 sacred places in the body, identifying intersections of matter and consciousness. Through the lens of astronomy, the diameter of the sun is approximately 108 times that of earth and the distance from our planet to its solar star is, on average, 108 times the diameter of the sun.

When to Use a Yoga Mala?

Use a yoga mala to mark an end, celebrate a beginning, or as the basis of a devotional prayer. Here are some moments that may call for a yoga mala:

  • A birth in the family
  • Spring Equinox
  • Your Birthday
  • When a friend or family member is ill
  • For Mother Earth
  • The end of a relationship

How to Keep Count

With the traditional sequences in the infographic below, you will simply need three different styles of counters and four small containers or piles. Try three differently colored beads (7 of one color, 2 of a second color, and 12 of a third color) and four small cups. The seven beads represent the surya namaskar As and two beads represent the surya namaskar Bs, all in one cup. Another cup has the 12 remaining beads, representing a complete round. Transfer the 9 beads into the third cup as you go, and once complete, move one of the 12 beads into the fourth cup. Then repeat the process until all 12 beads are in one cup, signifying 108 namaskars.

Stop When Your Heart Feels Complete

If you lose count or the bead system is too complicated, don’t worry. The completed number of asanas is not what matters most. You may choose to let go of the numbers all together and simply practice until your heart feels complete.

Mantras as Sacred Sounds

use the sacred vibration of sound to quiet your mind, feel deeply into your body, and open your heart. Try this simple flow and a profound Japa Mala Meditation.

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