Ever notice yogis or meditators wearing beaded bracelets and wondered what they were for? Or maybe you know that these wrist malas are meditation bracelets, but wondered how to use a wrist mala for meditation? I will explain 4 ways to do this, but first, just so we’re on the same page, let’s talk about…
What is a mala?
A mala is a string of beads on a necklace or bracelet, used as a tool to help you focus on your meditation. It can also be used as a way of keeping count of repetitions of whatever you’re doing.
Malas are a great way to assist meditation because they offer such a tactile, tangible way to focus your attention. This is great news for those of us who get bored or distracted easily, or who deal with chronic or acute anxiety. It’s also a wonderful way to introduce meditation to children.
Full malas have 108 beads, with a larger “guru” bead, stone or tassel at the bottom. They can be worn like a necklace when not in use. Wrist malas are worn as bracelets when not in use and traditionally have 18 or 27 beads, again with a tassel, or a larger “guru bead”.
Guru= teacher (those who have brought you to this point in your life, who have nurtured you intellectually and spiritually). It can represent literal teachers, friends or partners who have helped you to stretch and to become better, and it can also represent God. We start and end at this bead when we are keeping count, without ever passing over it, as a sign of gratitude and respect.
How is a mala used?
There are four main ways to use malas (either full malas or wrist malas; even a set of prayer beads works great):
- As part of a gratitude practice
- In the repetition of mantras or positive affirmations
- To keep count as you practice breath work (or pranayama)
- Wearing as a reminder of your intention and to absorb positive energy
You can stick to one practice, or mix them up- it’s totally up to you and what you feel you need on any given day. Do what feels nourishing to you.
Now it’s time to put your mala to use: Drape the beads over your dominant hand, as shown in the picture. Begin at one of the beads next to the guru bead. For each bead, practice
- Taking one deliberate breath,
- Identifying one thing you are thankful for, OR
- Repeating a mantra.
Use your thumb to advance to the next bead to keep track of how many repetitions you are doing. Stop on the last bead before the guru bead. If you want to continue, turn the bracelet around and follow the beads in the other direction, again stopping just before the guru bead and reversing directions until you are finished. Repeat as many times as you would like, whether it is just one round of the bracelet, or six rounds (to get to the traditional 108), or somewhere in between.
How can I get a mala?
You can purchase or easily make your own wrist mala. Plan on using 15-22 beads, depending on the size of the beads you choose and the circumference of your wrist. (8mm is a standard size, but you could also use 6mm or 10mm beads. You would just need to adjust the number of beads so that it fits your wrist.) This doesn’t need to be fancy. You can make your own- a piece of string with plastic beads on it could work. Your local craft store will have crystal or stone beads if you want to make something a little more long lasting and aesthetically pleasing.
The Wild Goose Meditation Shop on Etsy sells many beautiful wrist malas. We also have a limited number of ready-to-make kits if you are more inclined to make your own. Check out our tutorial video here.