To celebrate Meditation Day on 15th May, our Surf Maroc yogi, Catherine, will be guiding guests through some special meditations in our Amouage Shala. It’s our pleasure to have her as our guest writer to chat about one of the practices she will be guiding.
Since becoming a yoga teacher I’ve been asked what the ‘necklace’ or ‘beads’ around my neck are, what are they made of, and how do I use them? During my Mediation Day workshop, I’ll be guiding a Japa meditation that uses mala beads. So, I think now’s the time to shed ‘light’ on these beautiful spiritual malas, and perhaps open up a whole new side of yoga and meditation for you.
Mala comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘garland’. Mala beads are a meaningful meditation and mantra tool made up of 108 beads. Why 108 – well many reasons have been considered – see here! Malas can be necklaces or bracelets and are usually made of sandalwood, precious stones or rudraksha seeds.
Traditionally, you must be given your mala beads and never buy them for yourself. It’s a huge privilege to earn your mala beads and a major part of a yogi’s spiritual journey. My first set was given to me during my yoga teacher training course made of beautiful sandalwood. And my second set has a very special story.
India’s an incredible place – once you uncover the deeply rooted spirituality of the people and the place there is nowhere else on earth like it. I truly discovered this while visiting a bizarre in Jaisalmer when I got talking to a local man. He asked me about my sandalwood beads around my neck – “where did you buy them? Why do you have them? Why are you wearing them? Why did you become a yoga teacher? Why oh WHY did you leave your corporate career to become a yoga teacher?!” My answers seemed to please him and after quite a lengthy discussion to test that I knew my stuff and my heart was genuine, he opened up a little box and presented me with the most beautiful delicate rudraksha mala beads. They were rare, elegant, small and would be expensive if he were selling them. He put them over my neck and told me as soon as I got home to keep them very safe and use them only for meditation. An astute salesman turned spiritual guru in the space of seconds!
To this day, I have kept that promise. And one of the practices I love using these mala beads for is Japa meditation…
‘Japa’ is the Sanskrit word describing the meditative repetition of a mantra or a divine name. Japa meditation is a great tool to help us move into a peaceful and still place within ourselves. A place to return to time and again. Repeating sacred names or sacred mantras over and over assists the concentration of our mind entering into divine consciousness.
Using their mala beads, a yogi says their chosen mantra 108 times. A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. The guru bead at the bottom of the mala tells the yogi when s/he has finished a cycle of Japa.
The mala should be held draped over the third and fourth fingers so the thumb can glide over the 108 beads to count the repetitions. One never counts over the guru bead as that would be disrespectful. Also, the index (second) finger should not touch the mala as in yoga, this finger symbolises the ego, the greatest obstacle to self-realisation. Therefore, touching the mala is a humbling activity that strips away any sense of ‘I/Me/ego/self’ allowing the wearer to transcend their normal state of consciousness to become one with God and the divine.
Not sure what your mantra is? You can say something prevalent that comes to mind or just start with “I am enough”. Simple, true and something you should tell yourself every day! Even if you don’t believe your mantra, after enough repetitions it will begin to sink in.
I’m so excited to be guiding a Japa meditation on Meditation Day on 15th May. I hope you can join me at Amouage for this special day, otherwise please practice with us in spirit from afar!
Keep practicing, be curious.
Join Catherine (@yoga.with.catherine) at Amouage on 15th May for special Meditation Day classes!