My first encounter with a Mala ( Indian rosary) occurred over two decades ago, when i started my practice of Kriya Yoga. A Kriya is a very specific breathing technique through which you uplift prana-shakti ( life force )into sushumna nadi ( the main channel for subtle energy) from the base of the spine to the top of your head. Keeping count with the beads allows you to forget about the counting and immerse yourself into the practice ( performing Kriyas or chanting Mantras for example ) .
A mala consists of 108 plus one bead call the SuMeru (literally translates as the central world mountain, or the axis around which everything else revolves!). This is a very specific number in yoga as the ancient vedic texts state that there are 108 principal nadis (energetic channels) leading from the heart out to the subtle body, so when you repeat a practice 108 times you charge your entire system.
A Mala is traditionally made of:
- Wood ( Tulsi,, Sandalwood, Rudraksha)
- Quartz or Crystal
- Silver, Gold
Tulsi wood ( Basil ) is bext for believers of Lord Vishnu, Ram, Krishna or Hanuman.
Sandalwood Mala is common.
Rudraksha Mala is for believers of Lord Shiva and Shakti. Rudra Aksha means the tears of Lord Shiva
Pearl and Coral MAlas are for Shanti Sadhana ( pacifying spiritual practice).
Besides being a counting device a mala is also a good centring device. Engaging the fingertips means engaging consciousness. There is in fact a psycho-physical connection between our hands and our brain, and a more subtle energetic connection between our hands and our spiritual heart centre. Therefore doing Japa ( repetition) using a Mala is also a way to reconnect your spiritual heart to your brain!
Let’s mention some of the many benefits of doing Japa using a Mala. Japa (repetition) creates a sense of rhythm in your breathing .This , in turn, affects the brain stem ( the most primordial part of our brain). It helps de-conditioning from old habits by generating new neural pathways. Ritual, on the other side, helps to stimulate and regulate the R-complex ( an area of your cerebrum that has to do with aggression, social hierarchy and territoriality) . Finally doing Japa influences our cerebral cortex (the most evolved part of our brain which is the seat of consciousness). Think about a mantra as a tool to cleanse and energize your physical and spiritual body.
A Mala is used with the right hand only (between thumb, middle and ring fingers) and then worn around the neck, or kept in a pouch when it’s not used.
You wear these beads around your neck (seat of the chakra Vishuddi centre of expression ) and they sit over your heart ( Hridaya , your spiritual Heart in the centre of your sternum). The beads are magnetized by your touch and they get charged with use.
To me a Mala ( literally translates as garland ) is a garland of beads of awareness!
I have been making Malas in the past year or so. My Malas will be available at The Yoga Show through Omnitom, Stand G14
29th, 30th and 31st October