ruby’s tuesday | divining the meaning of malas

Whether it's interviewing Lady Gaga, unveiling the latest trends in fashion, or getting under the skin of our most neurotic social trends, Ruby Warrington is the writer at the forefront of it all.

Ruby is a British lifestyle writer and the celebrated creator of the blog The Numinous. Best of all, Ruby will be our feature writer for the lululemon blog. Here she finds out what is behind the meaning of malas.

The past month or so, I keep hearing the word ‘mala.’ And I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I have no idea what it means. Google can tell me mala is another word for Hindu prayer beads, after the Sanskrit word for ‘garland’. And I like the co-incidence that Alice is playing with a daisy ‘mala’ in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland just before she falls down the rabbit hole…

But for a more in-depth analysis, who better to turn to than Shakti jewellery’s Sarah Peyrow, a traveller and dedicated yogini who it turns out has been making malas, using materials carefully selected for their spiritual and healing properties, for the past ten years. Over to you, Sarah…


i'm hearing the word 'mala' everywhere: what exactly does it refer to?

Mala refers to a garland of 108 beads that’s used to hold the vibration of one's intention during meditation, and is considered to be alive as the keeper of that intention. As such, the mala is a very powerful tool designed to hold the energy of the person using it. Ideally you can bring your intention down to a simple word or simple phrase, which you then repeat 108 times, keeping track using the beads of the mala. The work of this kind of meditation - mala meditation - is to develop and focus the mind in a positive way


can a mala be purely decorative, or does it always have another purpose for the wearer?

A lot of people are attracted to malas for their decorative beauty, but even if it’s not intended for use as a spiritual tool it I believe it will still bring benefits to the wearer. My malas are all one of a kind, and I make them as beautiful as I can in devotion to the beauty of life, the beauty of creation, the beauty of the mind and the beauty of the journey! The fact that the mala has a spiritual context is actually what inspires me about it as a decorative piece.

can you remember the first mala you made?

I made my first mala ten years ago for my now husband, Rameen. His one was a carnelian mala, which helps focus you in the present, assists with the creative process and can help manifest your desires. Now I mostly make sandalwood malas, and some gemstone ones as well. Each mala I make incorporates different stones (precious or semi precious) meant to bring added benefits with their individual properties, and all my pieces come with cards explaining the significance of the materials I'm using


what drew you to working with this kind of jewellery?

Originally it was my yoga practice, when I would take trips to India to practice. But I also feel deeply connected to the power or spiritual significance of different stones and adornment. Rameen and I actually wear malas every day, and give them away as we feel attracted to people that would appreciate and benefit from a particular mala.

what makes the beads in a mala significant?

The significance of the beads is related to the stone or wood used in the mala, as each material has its own unique powers. As for the fact there are 108 beads on a mala, there is astrological significance, numerological significance and spiritual significance. But my personal favourite is that there are 108 energetic pathways to the heart.

what kind of stones do you work with the most, and why?

I work with so many different stones. Turquoise, citrine, amethyst, tourmaline, apatite, rubies, carnelian, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds...And I’m always searching for very high quality, untreated stones, that are one of kind in their cut and quality. At the moment I enjoy working with raw diamonds that haven’t been heated or treated, and also black diamonds. I feel that the more stones are treated, they lose their healing qualities.

and what about the stones you wear?

Personally, I wear a lot of hill tribe silver and gold, because I feel very connected to their craftmanship and quality of metalsmithing. As for stones, I’ve always been attracted to turquoise and diamonds. I love wearing a ganesha pendant as well, and see him as a friend who helps to remove obstacles and make realization possible. So I often put ganesha pendants on my malas. And when I say realization, I mean realization of a dream, of an intention, or of life's path.

what advice have you got for somebody searching for their first mala?

I’m a strong believer that you should go for whatever you feel attracted to the most. A mala is a very individual piece, but personally I never feel that one necklace is enough.

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I’m probably going to sound uncool saying this, but it sounds similar to Catholics’ rosary beads. There are so many ideas in common amongst religions and their spiritualities, it’s a shame that people fight over which one is “right”.

Comment by Kate — September 3, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

Not uncool at all. People everywhere say intentions/mantras/prayers/affirmations. Sometimes it’s religious, sometimes it’s not. In the end, we are all just people.

Comment by Caitlin — September 6, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

Kate – Definitely not uncool — Very cool. Its another similarity that is far from coincidence. There are many synchronicities tying the world religions together, and as you said, these things can or should be treated as simply as differences in culture or language, rather than focusing on the differences. How do you do this every day, communicate this? Lovely, lovely. Inspiring.

Comment by Kathleen — September 11, 2013 @ 10:28 am

I guess I can add (being a Hindu and an Indian) that Mala doesn’t necessarily have to be religious at all. We wear a mala just like a necklace, which could also mean you could already have your first mala without knowing an Indian person speaking Hindi would call it a mala. There are different kinds and the one with a specific set of beads (108) as mentioned is the one connected with spirituality. Mala is also significant in weddings where the groom and bride exchange flower mala(s) as a sign of being together. Mala is also not an uncommon girls name :)

Comment by upasna kakroo — September 15, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

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