What is the significance of 108?
The number 108 has held a multi-dimensional meaning throughout time and perspective:
The diameter of the Sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.
The diameter of the Sun multiplied by 108 equals the distance between Sun and Earth.
The diameter of the Moon multiplied by 108 equals the distance between Moon and Earth.
108 is also an integer divisible by the sum of its digits.
For these (and many other interpretations), 108 represents completion. The whole of existence.
Why are there 108 beads in a mala?
When used in yoga, malas represent the ecliptic -- the path of the sun and moon across the sky. The 108 beads mark the 108 steps that the sun and moon take. Each is associated with a particular blessing force, with which you align yourself as you turn the beads (generally done while meditating).
1 = God or Higher Truth
0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice,
8 = infinity or eternity
The anatomy of your mala
Everything has a purpose. Every bead, knot, and material plays its part.
Learn more about the intention that goes into creating each mala:
Lovely photo courtesy of Mala Collective.
Using your mala
If you’ve purchased (or are considering purchasing) a 108-bead mala, you may wonder what its purpose is.*
*Malas are traditionally used while reciting mantras during meditation. Beginning at the first bead, you gradually move the necklace through your fingers, moving to the next bead as you recite each complete mantra. This is done 108 times, traveling around the mala (and often again in the reverse direction) as you recite your mantra(s) aloud.
That's one way of doing things. Of course, there are multiple ways to use your mala as a practice tool for awareness and self-care. As with anything in life, customize your practice to work with and for your lifestyle and preferences.
Wear your intention
Use your mala as a reminder to practice your daily self-care activity. One common practice is to use your mala alongside a daily mantra (phrase to be repeated). For instance, when you feel stressed, take a deep breath, place one bead between your thumb and middle finger, and repeat, "I will practice patience" or even, "This too shall pass." Continue along the string of beads, repeating your mantra for as long as you feel is necessary.
Direct your focus
Wrap or hang your mala in a place of importance. Wanting to build a daily yoga practice? Hang your mala by your mat. Striving to journal regularly? Place your necklace atop your nightstand. Needing to make an important (but perhaps challenging) phone call? Ensure your mala is nearby the phone, and you will begin to direct your mental energy there as well.
Practice simple meditation
Hold your mala in your right hand. Starting at the guru bead, count to the bead that correlates with the day of your self-care practice. Extending your index finger, place the bead on your middle finger and gently place your thumb on top of the bead.
Closing your eyes, set an intention for your practice today. (There’s no right answer here. It may be to reconnect with a friend, learn about yourself, or to simply be mindful.)
To meditate using more than one bead ("counting"):
Use your thumb to "count" or repeat your mantra by touching the bead during the recitation. Then lightly pull the bead towards you on completion and move to the next bead.
Or simply wear your mala as a beautiful work of art -- just like you!