When I became a Certified Meditation Instructor in 2016 with Deepak Chopra, I was super excited to get my first mala. However, my initial impression of the malas I saw was that they were sorta bland, not inspired design-wise and I was pretty confident I could make one myself. And so I did.
After a lot of practice and refinement, I felt confident developing a curriculum around the deep history of the mala as well as the practical application to make your own. Teaching these classes was so fun and such a great way for groups of people to either bond, go inward for silent reflection or just simply create something with their hands. Something many people had not done since they were small children.
Malas can be a great addition to your meditation practice or a very special gift. If you feel called to make your own mala – DO IT! We’ll help you get started. This is a very simple DIY mala introduction to get you started on your own mala making journey.
If this looks like just too much and you’d rather just buy a mala – WE GET IT! And we got you – check out our handmade malas. You won’t see anything else like them.
But first, what is a mala?
The mala is an ancient spiritual tool that’s been used for thousands of years to help keep an accurate count of mantras during meditation. The mala is made up of gemstones or beads that become infused with the energy that’s channeled into them through a mantra repetition. By creating a special mala necklace or bracelet worn directly on the skin, you can keep the energetic properties of the beads close to you. In fact, mala jewelry has become a physical symbol of spirituality worn proudly around the necks and wrists of spiritual devotees.
Malas can take on even more of a special meaning when you make them for yourself or as a gift for someone else.
The Anatomy of a Mala
Traditionally, a mala has 108 beads, but you can use factors of 108, such as 18, 27, 36, or 54, to make a shorter mala that can be worn as a bracelet.
Also with tradition, sandalwood, rudraksha, or tulsi beads are used in malas; however, any gemstone that has the energetic properties you’d like to enhance (i.e., rose quartz to enhance love energy) is highly encouraged.
The guru bead is the bead that the tassel will attach directly to. The guru bead symbolizes the student-guru relationship and is to be respected. When using a mala for mantra repetition, you will never skip over the guru bead. Your stop, turn the necklace around, and begin again front the right side.
It’s important that this bead be slightly larger than the rest of the beads used. When you’re counting repetitions and your eyes are shut, your fingers will know you’ve reached the end because you feel a larger baed. This bead should also have a larger hole size because at the end of your bead stringing, both ends of the string will have to go through it.
The tassel is the cluster of string at the bottom of the mala. Each strand of the tassel is an extension of the cords that bind the necklace together and our connection to the divine and one another.
A true sign of a traditionally crafted mala is a simple hand knot in between each bead.
Some LOBAS malas have a very tiny gold filled or silver bead in lieu of a knot. It’s a gorgeous design element and achieves the same purpose as hand knotting. But for the sake of tradition and to create a very strong mala that can endure the elements and lots of mantra repetition, we recommend hand knotting in-between each bead.
Supplies for Making a Mala
Before you begin crafting your mala, make sure you have the following supplies ready:
- 108 beads in 6 mm or 8 mm size
- Use a bead with a hole size of 0.8 to 1 mm
- 5 feet of 1 mm waxed 100% cotton cord
- For shorter malas, use a shorter amount of cord
- Cotton cord will ensure a strong and durable mala
- 1 guru bead
- A guru bead can be a large bead, charm, or anything with a hole large enough so that two pieces of your cord can fit through successfully
- 1 tassel
- Be creative with your tassel; it can be made of a variety of different materials including silk, cotton, horsehair, or even leather
- Nail polish or glue to coat the ends of the string
Steps to Create a Mala
Final Step: Attach and secure your tassel by stringing one end of the cord through the loop at the top of the tassel and the other end of the cord through the loop on the top going the opposite direction.
Tie and secure multiple times.
Tip: Use the clear nail polish or glue to coat these knots so they stay secure.
*NOTE*: This article appears originally on the Chopra website and was written by me many years ago. I have since updated it for the LOBAS community.