How To Meditate With Mala Beads

how to meditate with mala beads

Previously we looked at how to choose mala beads to buy. Now let’s look more closely at how to meditate with mala beads. 

The first thing to do is to remember the parts of the mala. Understanding the different elements will help you to use mala beads for meditation properly. To learn all the parts of the mala beads, refer to the link above.

Meditation beads contain 108 beads, which are strung together with a piece of thread, and a single bead called a “guru bead”, which is significantly larger than the others. The guru bead is essential because it is the marker that you use to mark the end of your meditation session.

As well as the guru bead, you may notice that your meditation mala contains other large beads, usually spaced on every 27th bead, which is every one-quarter of the complete mala. Necklaces might have these beads placed halfway through, at the 54th bead instead. These are “spacers”. When you get to the spacers” you should take a moment to check-in with yourself and refocus your mind if you’re getting distracted.

Let’s now look at how to meditate with mala beads.

How To Meditate With Mala Beads 


  1. Set your intentions. For instance, tell yourself that you are meditating to create inner peace or to send out love (choose a mala that matches your intent).
  2. Sit comfortably
  3. Take hold of the mala in one hand and let it drop gently. Hold the prayer beads in your dominant hand with the tassel of the mala facing towards you. Hold your beads lovingly. Feel the union between your breath and the movement of the prayer beads. When you hold your prayer beads in meditation, you will want to hold them in your dominant hand with the tassel pointing towards you.  
  4. Take a look at your meditation mala. Notice that you have a tassel, which you will reach once you go all the way around your mala, which is usually 108 beads unless you have a mala beads bracelet in which case there will be 27 beads. Then you’ve got a big bead that is called the “guru” bead. And there are 108 beads on the necklace. These are all the essential parts of your prayer beads necklace.   
  5. Touch the guru bead with the other hand. We move the mala when meditating by moving it on each breath or each recitation of a mantra. Move the beads using your thumb instead of your index finger because the index finger represents the ego where the thumb represents the universal.  
  6. Each time you breathe in and out, move to a new bead of the mala. The process of rolling the beads in your fingers is a gentle motion that helps to calm the mind and focus your attention.
  7. Coordinate your breathing with the mala when meditating. To do this, move the mala bead as you breathe in, and you might like to count the breath too. The same thing applies when you use a mantra. For instance, if I’m meditating on “Om”, I will breathe in, move the mala bead one across, recite “Om”, breathe out, and then breathe in again and move to the next bead. 
  8. When we are doing mantra meditation (Japa), we are meditating on sacred sounds such as “Om”. Short mantras like Om are easy to count. Other mantras are very long, such as the Gayatri mantra. Keeping count of these is hard unless you have the proper equipment, i.e. your mala. If you are using a mantra, count the mantra instead of your breaths.  
  9. When meditating with beads, move the bead calmly.  If you try to rush your meditation, you will notice that you hold the beads too tightly and move them in a violent way. Be gentle with them. Feel the smoothness of the beads and let that smoothness relax your mind. That’s the best way to use prayer beads for meditation.
  10. When you get to the “spacers” of your mala (every 27th bead) take a moment to pause and check that you are being mindful.
  11. You will eventually come full circle and find yourself on the guru bead. This is a time to pause and reflect. Sit still and express gratitude for your meditation session.  


 Adding Dorje and Bells

While you’re choosing mala beads, you might also like to consider Dorje and Bells. We use these for extended meditation sessions.

Sometimes in Japa we recite a mantra very many times. In fact, sometimes we recite a mantra more than 10,000 times. Mantras like these can be difficult to keep track of with a regular mala, and so we accessorise malas with a dorje and bell [1]. These are two short strings that contain ten small beads, which you can use for counting above 108.

 You use the dorje to count complete cycles of the mala when meditating. This way you know precisely how many recitations you have done because you have the full-mantra count (shown by the dorje) plus the bead of the mala that you are currently on.

Once you have moved the dorje up ten beads, you then have the bell counter. This counts 1000 recitations. Between the mala, the dorje and the bell you can count up to 10,000 mantra recitations.

Mala Beads 101: What Are Malas Really For? Which Type Should You Wear?


Wearing Meditation Mala Beads

There is a right way how to wear meditation beads and a wrong way. If you chose your mala beads for healing purposes, all you have to do is put it around your neck or wrist. Simple.

To get more out of malas, you can wear multiple malas at the same time. I love how this looks. You get different textures and colours to compliment your style, plus you get the multi-dimensional healing benefits of the meditation malas. Make sure you choose mala beads that work well together if you plan on combining them.

Even though wearing meditation prayer beads is simple, there are a couple of things you should know.

For starters, you shouldn’t let your mala beads touch the ground because this will interfere with the energy resonance. If you do accidentally drop it, you will want to cleanse it in saltwater. (You can read about how to cleanse mala beads below).

You might not want to let other people touch your mala beads either, in case they transmit their own energy to them.

Whether you choose to follow these rules when wearing mala beads will depend on your own beliefs. So, if you don’t believe it matters then, hey, no sweat.

There are rules for wearing mala bracelets too. Most yogis believe they should be worn on the right wrist, although I do not follow this and instead wear them on the left (it’s a matter of personal belief, after all).  I honestly don’t think wearing mala beads on the left hand is a problem. Do you?

How To Cleanse Mala Beads 

You’ll definitely want to know how to cleanse mala beads because they will sometimes become impure, such as when you drop them or when someone else touches them.

Traditionally there is no prescribed time for cleansing mala beads. It’s all about getting in touch with your intuition. If you feel that you should be cleansing your mala beads, you probably should. There will be observable energy in your being that tells you when it is time.

Feel your mala beads. Ask yourself: are they creating the right energy? If not, it’s time to cleanse your mala beads.

Steps for cleansing.

  1. Sit outside and place your mala beads in the light of the sun or moon. The energy of the light will help to remove negative energy from the mala. It is a purifying process.
  2. Place your mala on the ground and burn dried white sage near it so that the smoke rolls over the mala.
  3. While the mala is being cleansed, chant OM for 108 recitations.
  4. Wash the mala with sea saltwater. For best results, wash it in the ocean.
  5. You may like to cleanse your meditation crystals at the same time. [take a look at my guide to the best crystals for more on this]

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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