How to Make a Mala

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.

Guru Bead
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.

Overhand Knotting
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

Mala materials

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
  • Scissors
  • Nail polish or glue to coat the ends of the string

Steps to Create a Mala

Cotton thread for mala
Step 1: Cut a length of cord (5 feet for a 108-bead mala necklace is suggested).
Tip: Use clear nail polish or glue to coat a few inches of one end of cord, let it dry, and then cut it to a pointed tip. This will make stringing the beads much easier!
Apply nail polish to the cotton thread
Tip: Use clear nail polish or glue to coat a few inches of one end of cord, let it dry, and then cut it to a pointed tip. This will make stringing the beads much easier!

Tying the first knot for your mala
Step 2: Tie off one end of your cord and leave a 5-to-8-inch tail. This “tail” will be used to tie on the tassel.
Adding beads to your thread
Step 3: Start stringing your beads and pull a tight knot after each bead using your thumbnail to push the knot tight against the bead. Traditionally, no tool is used to make the knots.
Tie a knot after the last bead
Step 4: Continue this repetition for 108 more times. Notice how malas are as meditative to make as they are to use!
Tip: Start infusing your beads with energy right away by saying a silent mantra, prayer, or intention with each bead you string. This is jewelry with intention after all.
Tie the two ends of the mala together
Step 5: When you have finished stringing all your beads, using a simple knot, tie the two ends of string together to create a full circle.
Adding the guru bead to your mala
Step 6: String your guru bead, which is larger and has a larger hole, onto both pieces of string at the bottom of the mala. Tie another simple knot secure the guru bead.

Adding the tassel to your 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.