There’s a trend emerging in the yoga and new age scene of wearing mala beads, or prayer beads, as a statement of both fashion and of our chosen path. More and more, these malas are adorned with crystal or semi-precious stone pendants, such as rose quartz, turquoise, amethyst or Jade. Each stone having specific properties which may enhance our intuition, emotional strength or clear negative energy as a few examples. Though traditional malas were often made purely of rudraksha or sandalwood beads, some would be made of semi-precious stone, pearls or shells.
Malas, or ‘Japa Malas’, roughly meaning ‘murmuring garland’, are traditionally used for prayer rather than a fashion statement. Malas traditionally have 108 beads, the quantity being an austere number signifying the 108 names of the Indian goddesses, or the 108 stages of the soul on its journey. There are numerous explanations for the significance of 108 beads. As its practical use, the beads are used to count the repetition of a prayer or ‘mantra’, such as ‘Om Shrim Gum Ganapatye Namaha’, roughly translating to ‘Om and salutations to the remover of obstacles for which Gum is the seed.’ The repeated prayer could also be something as simple as repeating the word ‘Love’ or ‘Peace’, 108 times. The repetition takes time and discipline making the prayer a focus within day to day life.
I received my first mala while on a Reiki retreat in Spain in 2007. On an afternoon excursion, 22 of us arrived at a Tibetan Monastery in the mountains outside of Orgiva, Spain. We embarked on a silent trek around the monastery grounds. I can still remember the feeling of sitting at the top of the mountain. As I overlooked a mostly-uninhabited valley of green, I felt that my perspective shifted. I received a new perspective on life, realizing that the nature in the valley below me would continue to endure. It illuminated to me how insignificant all my problems and worries actually were. I felt at peace, and in harmony with the tranquil landscape.
I had no idea at the time that this moment would in fact, act as a catalyst in me taking charge of my life. I transitioned out of the corporate world, searching for a life that was authentic. I wanted a life which I felt I could lead by example, and perhaps tread a little more lightly on Mother Nature. It took several years of transition, giving up a stable career to travel, immerse myself in yoga training, then nutrition training. Sometimes we just have to let life move us, teach us and ultimately transform. For years those wooden and amethyst beads encircled my wrist, serving as a constant reminder to let go of fears and worries. At times it served as a companion for morning mantras.
Since 2010 I wanted to create malas, and now, 2 years later, I sit here with the first of my creations surrounding me. As yoga is truly about union, I have no qualms about unifying something beautiful and unique with an age old tradition – especially a tradition which has had meaning in my life. Sometimes tradition needs to be updated just enough to fit within our modern world, rather than it being lost completely. I’m sure many of you have guided meditations or yoga classes on video or mp3 files
Barefoot Nutrition Malas will be available at Rawstock Niagara on August 25th, and on the Barefoot Nutrition website shortly thereafter.