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What are Yoga Mala Beads

What are Yoga Mala Beads?

Yoga Mala Beads Meaning?

If you are familiar with Yoga you may have wondered what is the meaning of Yoga Mala?

Yoga Mala — also known as Yoga Beads or japa malas — are Yoga Necklaces that usually have 108 beads and a Guru Bead. The use of Yoga Mala beads as a device for prayer and Japa meditation seems to have originated around the 8th century B.C.E. in India. Yoga beads or Yoga Mala (Sanskrit: mālā “garland”) are a traditional spiritual device used by Hindi, Buddhist and Yoga spiritual practices

Mala means Garland what are yoga beads

Japa means Recitation what are yoga beads

What are Yoga Mala Beads Made From

Yoga Mala Necklaces are traditionally made out of natural materials, native to the area or region. Real Yoga Mala are made from woods, seeds (Rudraksha or Bohdi) Stones and Bones. 

Traditional Yoga Mala Beads Necklaces were made from simple, native materials to remind the person doing Japa Mediation that the focused desire is detachment from material and emotional possessions.

Modern Yoga Necklace (or ‘Inspired Jewelry), trends to include elements of the designers personal philosophies, including magical gemstones from around the globe with claims of additional benefits.

Rudraksha Seed Yoga Meditation Mala

Rudraksha Seed Yoga Mala Beads Necklace

Rudraksha Yoga Mala Beads have been used by Hindus as rosaries from at least the 10th century for the purpose of meditation and to sanctify the mind, body and soul. The word rudraksha is derived from Rudra (Shiva—the Hindu god of all living creatures) and aksha (eyes).

One Hindu legend says that once Lord Shiva opened his eyes after a long period yogic meditation, and because of strong feelings He shed a tear. This single tear from Shiva’s eye grew into the rudraksha tree. It is believed that by wearing the Rudraksha bead one will have the protection of Lord Shiva. The Rudraksha fruit is blue, but turns black when dried. The central hard seed may have 1 to 21 faces.

what are yoga beads

Bodhi Seed Yoga Mala Beads Necklace

Bodhi Seed Yoga Mala have a special significance as it is said that while Prince Siddhartha was sitting under a Bodhi tree meditating, he became Buddha through enlightenment.  Thus the Bodhi Seed Prayer Bead is highly prized as the Buddha Bead for obtaining enlightenment.

Bodhi in sanskrit translates to “enlightened” or “awakened,” therefore the bodhi seed means “enlightened seed.” Bodhi is also a term in Buddhism to reflect a Buddha’s understanding of the true nature of things.

Many Buddhist wear the bodhi seeds during their meditation practices to ultimately reach enlightenment. The seeds have a special significance to all seekers of divine wisdom not matter what form of eastern religious philosophy is followed.

Why Are Yoga Mala Necklaces Made Of 108 Beads?

The truth is, no one really knows for sure.  There are many reasons given, and each reason seems to result with the number 108.  Going back to the ancient Vedic culture, their mathematicians knew that 108 was the number of existence. In the yogic tradition, there are 108 Upanishads (the sacred texts), 108 sacred sites throughout India, and 108 marma points, which are the sacred sites of the body. There were 108 gopis dancing with Krishna in Vrindavan.

This number is so engrained in the Indian consciousness that 108 is the telephone number for emergencies, like 911 in the U.S. In the Jewish tradition, 108 is a multiple of 18, which is the number connected to the Hebrew word chai, meaning “life, or alive.” And in Islam, the number 108 refers to God.

Thus, when we recite or recount number 108, we are actually remembering the entire universe. This reminds us of the fact that the universal self is omnipresent, that is the innate nature of the self

History of Yoga Mala Beads Necklaces

What are Yoga Beads, Yoga Mala Beads
Real Indian Yogi’s (from where Yoga originated) are never seen wearing the type of Mala sold by Western Yoga Studios and Practitioners

From the very beginning the original Yoga Mala Meditation Necklace has been changed with adaptations from the various users of Yoga Necklaces and Mala. When the Romans invaded India, they mistook japa for jap, which is the Latin word for rose. Upon returning to Rome, mala beads were referred to as Rosarium and later became known as rosary beads in English when adopted by Christians.

More recently as Yoga started to spread to the west, it was predominately spiritual seekers that embraced Yoga as a form of exercise and then meditation. As Yoga grew in popularity, Yoga Mala Beads Necklaces were adapted from it’s original materials and changed to match the personal preferences of those who would be likely to be attracted to it.

Modern Yoga, as offered in health clubs and Yoga studios is often criticized by traditionalists as resembling Yoga in much the same way as Olive Garden represents Italian food. Despite it’s critics, modern Yoga whether in the form of boxing yoga, rave yoga, dance yoga, naked yoga or Bikram yoga, has still introduced Yoga, Yoga Mala Necklaces and Japa Meditation to millions of people.

Yoga is not seen as a religious movement, it is often see as a spiritual one, with many controversy between traditionalists and modernist on the extent to authenticity.

Most forms however include the adoption of the Japa Meditation practices as part of their spiritual growth. Most traditionalist accept that many Yogi practitioners will, at first be attracted to the idea of Japa Meditation and use beautiful (usually high priced) jewelry.

But it is thought that as the persons spirituality develops, and they will no longer wish to use inspired jewelry for Japa Meditation and return to the traditional simple and natural Yoga Necklace Mala for use with Meditation.

Uses of Yoga Mala Necklace for Japa Meditation

Yoga is all it’s forms is about detachment. Detachment from the mental and physical, detachment from possessions and desires. The physical aspect of Yoga uses stretching and mental focus to remove ones self from the physical senses of the world. Yoga Meditation Mala beads used for Japa meditation add a powerful mental practice and help aid removing the mental processes from the material world.

To this end Yoga beads have always been made with simple local resources, that have a mental and spiritual association with this purpose. Most notably wood, stone and seeds. The most famous type of Yoga Mala beads are the Rudraksha seeds Mala and the Bodhi Seed Necklace Mala.

Yoga and the Use of Mantra

In additional to the poses, Mantra is probably the main Yoga practice that characterizes yoga as a whole within its many different variations. All Spiritual yogic paths use mantras and have special mantras of their own. Special mantras and chants pervade the primary yogas of knowledge (jnana), devotion (bhakti) and service (karma) in which asana (forms) do not have an important role. Yet even in hatha yoga, and modern variations of Yoga where asana can be very important, mantra remains significant and is the main method employed to prepare the mind for deeper yoga practices.

The Yoga Sutras and its tradition of raja yoga emphasizes the role of the Pranava, (primal sound), as the main means of connecting with the Divine.  The Yoga Sutras stress the importance of chanting and meditating upon Aum, which is the essence of all mantras.

Real Yoga Prayer Beads
All Hindu and Spiritual Yogi’s seeking Spiritual advancement will use Yoga Mala made from Rudraksha seeds. Photo Credit:

Benefits of Using Yoga Mala for Japa Meditation

The practice of yoga usually begins with the chanting of mantras–which may be mantras to the guru, to the aspect of the Divine one worships, or to the higher self–in order to create the proper atmosphere for teaching, or mantras to sanctify the ground on which one sits. Mantra grants sanctity and concentration to yoga, which otherwise easily descends into another form of physical exercise or a seeking of personal empowerment.

Yoga Mala for Focusing the Mind

The purpose of meditation is to still the mind and focus on obtaining a spiritual awareness, and keeping track of how many mantras you recite during your Japa meditation requires concentration and active conscious thinking. The mala is used so that one can focus on the meaning or sound of the mantra rather than counting its repetitions. One repetition of the mantra is usually said for each bead while turning the thumb around each bead.

This process is repeated and when arriving at the head or guru bead, the person meditating turns the mala around and then goes back in the opposing direction. Typically one cycle of Mantras is about 100, (sometimes 108) but generally what ever philosophy of Japa you are using, by the time you reach 108 counts you start a new cycle.

Yoga Mala for Storage of Power

The Yoga traditions believe that when a mala is used with mantra recitation, the power of the mantra enters into the beads of the Yoga Necklace mala, which become energized at a subtle level. The more often they are used, the greater their power becomes. The mala gathers and magnifies the power of the mantra, forming a sphere of energy and protection around us.  It is based on this purpose of Mala, that modern variations of Yoga Mala have included non native (to India) component beads to make the Mala

Traditional Yoga Mala Vs. Modern Inspired Jewelry

Yoga Prayer Beads Mala are considered a sacred implement that itself needs to be honored. Wearing a Yoga Necklace, it is not a matter for public display or a fashion statement. While a person can wear a protective mala at all times, they usually keeps special sadhana malas away from public contact, viewing or touch.  What are Yoga Mala

As Yoga has changed and been re-branded for mass appeal, practitioners of Yoga have started to make their own jewelry (or purchase for resale). These inspired jewelry make use of the cheaply available mass produced gemstones by Chinese factories to add some consumer appeal. In this way the designer of the Yoga Mala can add elements from Native American, Wiccan and other new aged philosophies making it a multi purpose Prayer Bead

Opinions vary from traditionalists to modernist as to the purity and power of the new aged yoga jewelry compared with the Yoga Mala. The modern jewelry can extend the purpose and use with a variety of additional intention qualities with the use of specific gemstones over and beyond the purely spiritual aims of Japa Meditation.

In the end, this has to be the personal choice of the person who chooses their Mala, stick with the traditional or personalize the Mala with additional purpose. Either way, the Mala must remain sacred and be treated with respect. If using the Mala as a show piece of fashion jewelry – it should no longer be considered a Mala used for meditation.

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Modern Yoga Beads is referred to as ‘Inspired Jewelry’ and when worn to be displayed removes any sacred nature according to Yoga traditionalists

Article For Step by Step Instructions on how to use Yoga Mala for Japa Meditation

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