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.
11 ways to get get back into the yoga swing of things
So you’ve been wanting to try our Breakfast of Champions Challenge, but don’t know where or how to start. Maybe it’s been too long since you last dug out your mat. Maybe you had an injury and had to abstain for a bit. Maybe you’ve just been watching TV all day instead of getting up and at ‘em! Whatever your reason is, Tommy Rosen’s energizing and revitalizing video is only 20 minutes, and an amazing start to your day! But if you want to take it a step further and get back into your regular daily yoga schedule, Yoga Journal has some tips this past issue on how to do it (we threw in our GTV take, as well!):
- Accept where you are: after a long hiatus, your practice won’t be exactly the same. And that’s totally okay! The key is knowing that yourself, and making peace with it. Then get up and keep going!
- Take the long view: take a look at where you want to be and know that wherever you are now, if you are consistent, you will get there. Vinyasa and therapeutic yoga teacher Tiffany Cruikshank describes it as, “You’re starting a new relationship with your yoga practice and, in some ways, your body is totally foreign to you. You have to think of where you will be six months from now as opposed to just killing yourself and giving up.”
- No practice is too short: every minute counts! Even if you start with only a quick 5 minute series of poses, it’s still more than you did yesterday. Aim to increase it by a minute or two every day, or get in multiple sets of five minutes. It’s great to just get the discipline in of starting.
- Dedicate a space: half the battle is getting the mat out, are we right? So leave it out and ready to go. It doesn’t have to be a big space, but just in an accessible place you won’t overlook, along with all the gear you’ll need.
- Don’t overdo: it’s okay to literally ease into it. Yoga Journal suggests working 50-75% of what your old “normal” used to be, and to take it easy on the advanced poses, as your body may have lost flexibility and strength. Nothing like another injury to put the brakes on your restarted practice!
- Start fresh: maybe your last practice was part of why you stopped. You can try new classes, teachers, and forms of yoga to keep it new and non-routine. Let yourself feel like a beginner again, and you can see things from a new perspective and with a new voice.
- Take a private class: scared to be a beginner again? A private instructor may have the one-on-one patience you need to be encouraged to continue. It can be just for a few sessions, as well; whatever you need to get back in the groove and gain your confidence.
- Find a challenge: when you’re doing a challenge that has a set goal, schedule, and finite amount of time, it can be easier to achieve than simply reaching for the nebulous “Get back into yoga!” goal. Luckily, we’ve made it easy for you to start, and we also have a great community of fellow yogis that would love to keep you accountable!
- Indulge in the poses you love: positive reinforcement is a great way to motivate yourself. If you drag your feet to your yoga mat, reignite the fire! Find the passion again with the poses you enjoy! You’ll be looking forward to your next yoga-you-time before you know it.
- Try the ones you don’t love: giving yourself a goal to reach for can also be a great motivator. “Hard poses never get stale,” after all. Whatever you try, give it your best shot; no slacking!
- Deepen your connection to yourself: yoga is an extremely personal, intimate practice. Yoga Journal reminds us, “Remember that first and foremost yoga is a path toward quieting your mind.” The keys to a successful, fulfilling yoga practice is loving yourself, and aware of what’s going on internally. Don’t tune out your inner voices, and you are sure to have a great time. We hope these tips help you on your yoga journey. Now switch off the computer and hop on your mat! Namaste.