How to Use and Select a Mala to Enhance Your Meditation Practice
A few months ago when I had a terrible, never-ending headache, I tried to meditate and I failed horribly. I’m the type of person who cannot sit still for very long, and I like to remain active and keep my body engaged when I’m awake. Then, I found a tool that was able to help me sit still, yet focus on my meditation practice – a mala.
A mala is a long strand of 108 beads that you can use to enhance your meditation practice. Instead of focusing on the number of times you repeat your mantra, you can use your mala to keep count so that you can focus your mantra’s meaning.
Choosing a Mantra
A mantra is defined as a word or phrase that is repeated often or that expresses someone’s basic beliefs. You choose a mantra during your meditation practice to enter the silence of your mind and achieve deeper awareness. The repetition of the mantra can allow you to escape your thoughts and feelings that fill your mind each day, allowing you to disconnect your mind and thoughts from your physical body. One of the most commonly used mantra is “Om” (said as aum), which represents your universal consciousness.
Another option is to follow a guided meditation that has music and mantras for you to recite. The website of Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Center for Wellness offers free guided meditations with specific intentions here. You can also choose between thousands of free videos and audio recordings available online or on YouTube.
How to Choose the Right Mala for You
When it came time to choose a mala, I chose a Rosewood Mala from Sivana. Rosewood enhances circulation and deflect negative vibrations, which can help my very cold hands and feet due to poor circulation and low blood pressure. I love this set because it comes with a traditional mala as well as a matching bracelet for shorter meditation practices and as a daily reminder of peace and tranquility.
Traditional Rosewood Mala Set ($69)
You can find malas made of seeds, wood, bones and gemstones. The possibilities are nearly endless. To choose your mala, I recommend using your intuition and thinking about what you would like to achieve in your practice. Then find a mala that helps you reach those intentions. A good rule of thumb for choosing a gemstone mala is to match your intentions with your body’s chakras as follows:
- The Root Chakra (base of spine) is your sense of grounding, security, intuition and survival. You can choose stones in the red and black family such as hematite, black obsidian, bloodstone, onyx, red zincite, smoky quartz, tiger’s eye, garnet and red jasper. Balancing your Root Chakra can bring about peace and energy and relieve stress and anxiety.
- The Sacral Chakra (below the navel) focuses on your creativity, desires and sexuality. Stones for this chakra are in the orange family, and include carnelian, orange zincite, orange jasper and fire opal. Balancing your Sacral Chakra can bring about health and desire, help overcome anger and develop self control.
- The Solar Plexus (below your breastbone) is your body’s power and protection. This chakra’s stones are yellow, including citrine, yellow jasper, yellow sapphire, amber, topaz and calcite. Balancing your Solar Plexus can enhance your focus, decision-making abilities, spiritual growth, happiness and stability.
- The Heart Chakra (center of your chest) is associated with love, compassion and emotional balance. Stones to open up your heart chakra are typically pink or green, and include rose quartz, green aventurine, tourmaline, malachite, emerald, moonstone and jade. Balancing your Heart Chakra can enhance your compassion and ability to love yourself and others more freely.
- The Throat Chakra (located in your neck) is your communication center. This chakra is associated with the color blue, and stones to balance this chakra include turquoise, kyanite, blue calcite, blue lace agate and aquamarine. Balancing your Throat Chakra can instill confidence, and encourage peaceful self-expression and open communication.
- The Third Eye (located in the center of your forehead) is your intuition and spiritual awareness. Associated with the color indigo or dark blue, stones for this chakra include lapis luzi, sugilite, lapis luzi and sodalite. Balancing your Third Eye can enhance your visual consciousness, clarity and insight.
- The Crown Chakra (located at the top of your head) is your consciousness, enlightenment, patience and highest self-awareness. This chakra is associated with the color violet or golden white and includes amethyst, white topaz, howlite, clear quartz and white calcite. Balancing your Crown Chakra can encourage free thought, transcendence and physical and emotional balance.
How to Use a Mala
Hindu traditions say to hold the mala in your right hand with the thumb flicking one bead to the next while the mala is draped across your middle finger. Traditions in northeast India dictate that the best practice is to drape the mala on the ring finger of the right hand, and move the beads with the middle finger and thumb.
Either way you choose, begin your practice by sitting in a quiet, comfortable space. It is best to sit with your legs crossed to keep your mind and body engaged, but you can lie down if sitting up is not possible or uncomfortable. Breathe in deeply and focus your attention on your chosen mantra or affirmation. Once you are calm and focused, start with that bead to the left of the larger center bead – the guru bead – and turn your finger clockwise around each bead and then push that bead away and move onto the next bead. Once you arrive at the guru bead, you can stop your practice, or you can turn the mala around and repeat the process in the other direction.
Practice your mala meditation daily, weekly, monthly or whenever you feel that your body and mind are in need of clarity, peace and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the busy world.