If you’ve been to a yoga class or two, you’ve probably seen someone sporting those trendy prayer beads around their neck or wrapped on their wrist as a sign of spirituality. Mala beads have actually been used forcenturies in meditation practices and are often worn by yogis as a reminder oftheir spiritual practice while going about their daily lives. Mala (the Sanskrit word for garland) is a string of beadsused in Buddhism and Hinduism for keeping count while chanting mantras,allowing the focus to be on the meaning of the mantra instead of on countingduring meditation. Traditional malas have 108 beads plus one main bead calledthe guru bead or the bindu. The significance of 108 has numerous interpretations, but 108 has been a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga for centuries. A common interpretation is that the heart is said to have 108 main veins, so after reciting a mantra 108 times you have purified your body. In Ayurveda there are 108 Marmas or points in your body where bones, joints, muscles and nerves meet creating vitality. In Buddhism tradition, there are 108 earthly desires in mortals, 108 lies humans tell and 108 human delusions. Malas are made with round beads that easily slide across your fingers. The material and color of the beads vary according to the purpose of the meditation. Mantras recited for the purpose of increasing something like lifespan or knowledge should use a mala made with metal beads such as gold, silver or copper. Malas can also be made with gemstones that have healing properties like moon stone for emotional balance and intuition or quartz crystal for spiritual wisdom and clarity of thought. Malas can also be chosen according to a chakra you wish to open. If you are working on unblocking your root chakra, you would choose a red mala. Beads made from bodi seeds, which come from a Rudraksha tree, are organic and can be used for all purposes and mantras. To use the mala, find a quiet meditation spot and hang the beads around your middle finger of your right hand with your thumb on the guru bead. Focus on your breath and settle into your meditation zone. When you are ready, recite your mantra then push the bead away with your thumb and move on to the next bead reciting the mantra again. Continue on all the way around the chain. When you reach the guru bead again you are finished with 108 mantras. It is believed that when you use your mala, the beads absorb the energy of the meditation, so when you wear it you are holding that energy near you.