Amy Leiter



meditatION with a mala

Mala beads are a great tool to help focus your attention, whether you’re just starting a meditation practice, or you're an advanced practitioner. Meditation isn’t about eliminating the thoughts. Rather, it's about creating space between them, allowing yourself the room to connect to your higher self. The beads provide a tactile physical reminder of something to return to if you find your mind wandering, just like returning to your breath. If you are new to meditation one thing is guaranteed —  your mind will wander. When it does, simply return to the beads. You’ll be challenged consistently in your practice. It doesn’t mean meditating is not for you— it just means you're human in a modern world.


If you are new to meditation it is recommended to first focus on your breath. Focusing on the inhale and the exhale. If your mind wanders just return to your breath again. Once you have this down adding in a mala may be useful. Got it down? Let’s layerin a mantra with your breath.


Anatomy of a Mala

Let’s look at the different parts that make up your mala to better understand how to incorporate Mala Beads into your meditation practice.

The Tassel

The tassel’s significance has multiple meanings. One that resonates with us is that as the strings come together as one to form the tassel, it represents our connection to the divine and to each other. We love the concept of it representing oneness.

The Guru Bead

The Guru Bead is the bead that the tassel attaches directly to. When strung on a necklace, the Guru Bead is often the 109th necklace. The Guru Bead is said to symbolize the Guru from who the student has received a mantra being used or recited, and pay homage to the student-guru relationship.

Overhand Knotting

A true sign of a traditionally crafted mala, overhand knotting not only makes the mala stronger, it also provides the perfect space for Japa Meditation – a meditation that uses each bead to count a repetition of a mantra.

History of a Mala

Mala beads have been used by yogis and spiritual seekers for thousands of years to help keep their minds focused during meditation. Malas were first created in India 3000 years ago (with roots in Hinduism & Buddhism) and were used for a special style of meditation called Japa, which means, “to recite”. The term ‘mala’ is a Sanskrit word for “meditation garland.”

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Meditating with a Mala Step by Step

On each bead, take a deep inhale and exhale. Move to the next bead inhale and exhale.You can use Mala beads to hold time and space mediation session or to hold the beads in your fingers as you repeat a mantra. It’s a gentle reminder to reground and refocus.

  • Begin by holding your beads in front of you and we can begin with the tassel. The tassel represents an end point — signifying you’ve gone all the way around the Mala for a full cycle of meditation.

  • Between the tassel and necklace, there is one usually larger single bead, called the guru bead which represents any higher powers or teachers you wish to honor.  The Mala is made up of 108 beads.

  • Start with the beads in your dominant hand, with the tassel facing you. Begin with the bead directly to the right of the guru bead

  • Hold and turn each bead individually in your fingers, moving slowly to the next bead

  • The index finger is believed to represent the ego so it is recommended to use your thumb to turn each bead. Rotate each bead by turning then moving to the next.

  • Each mala is hand knotted between each bead, this is meant to support the practice of moving from bead to bead. 

  • Congrats! This signifies a full practice! If you want to keep meditating, rather than continuing over the guru bead, it is advised to turn back in the direction you just came.

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Meditating with a Mala Using a Mantra

A mantra is a word, sound, or phrase repeated to set intention and help with concentration while meditating by focusing on positive energy. A mantra can be as simple one word or qualities you wish to bring forward in myself such as grounding, surrender, and ease.

  • On each bead, along with your breath, try silently repeating your mantra to yourself

  • For the sake of this, we will use an affirmation based mantra, which is an “I Am statement”

  • On each bead, inhale “I Am” and exhale a word that embodies how you want to feel in that moment. It can be abundant, strong, patient, intuitive, etc. (For more on choosing your word, read: I Am Enough — Why Affirmations are so powerful)

  • Inhale “I Am” and exhale your word on each bead

  • You can also simply use one word such as grounded, or love

  • Once you have made it around 108 beads, you will reach the guru bead

  • The guru bead signifies a moment to pause and sit in reflection. Here, you can thank and honor your guru, your mantra, and yourself for taking the time to sit in stillness.