What is a Mala? How do I make one?

Malas: What are they and what do you do with them? Can I make my own?

 what is a mala DIY mala gabrielle orcutt photography yoga
Malas come in many different colors and have many different elements in their creation: wood beads, glass beads, crystal smoothed stones, string, feathers, leather. They are as diverse as the creator that makes them. Despite their differences in appearance there are two items that create a legit mala: 108 beads with a focus bead at the head. This focus bead is called a Guru Bead. Malas also come in fractions of 108 beads.
So what’s the point of a Mala? What’s the purpose of the Guru bead? Ahh, I’m glad you asked poppet. A mala is used during meditations to count your mantras (or intensions). When one wears their mala, it is a reminder of your intensions every time you look at it all day long. Think of it as your dream board, only much more fun to wear and not as much glue. 😉
Why 108 beads? There are a few reasons for this being the magic number:
  • Earthly desires: There are believed to be 108 earthly desires in mortals
  • The Heart Chakra: Chakras are intersections of energy lines along the spine. The believe is that there are 108 energy lines entwining to form the heart chakra
  • 9 & 12: Very sacred numbers, 9×12 = 108
  • Feelings in relation to time: It is said there are 108 feelings – 36 feelings in the past, 36 feelings in the present and 36 feelings in the future
  • 8 extra beads: Are in your favor for errors or omissions in meditative chanting. 100 manta recitations are counted as completed. The 8 extra beads are also said to be an offering to God or Guru.
  • The number individually: 1, 0, and 8 have their own specific meanings. 1 for God/Higher Truth; 0 for emptiness/completeness in spiritual practice and 8 for infinity/eternity
Malas are used during Japa Meditation (or mantra meditation). Japa meditation involves the reciting of a mantra that may be recited softly or quietly in the mind. This technique helps your mind focus on one single point of concentration. In repeating this mantra, you are fully able to bring intense focus to your intension and the result is being able to fully absorb its meaning.
There is no wrong or right way to choose your mala. You will naturally be more drawn to one over another. Go with your intuition; what you are drawn to is meant for you. If you are still up in the air on deciding, you can pick a mala with your intention in mind and choose one that represents it.
Traditionally, a Lama would bless your mala. They are a qualified master and unfortunately for many of us, this is simply not an option. You can create your own mala blessing ceremony by burning some incense, cupping the mala in your hands and offering it up to God or your higher truth or universe.
So what is that fancy Guru bead all about anyways? The Guru bead holds all the energy created in your meditation practice. This bead will not be used in counting during your intention recital and should never be passed over when reciting more than 1 round (108) mantras. Start with the bead to the left or right of it when beginning your meditation. Using your thumb and middle finger, hold on to the bead and spin it while stating your mantra. Move to the next bead and repeat. This will continue until you make your way back to the Guru bead. If you wish to continue meditating, start at the bead you ended with and work your way back around. A variation to the traditional mala is a mala that ha spacer beads, typically following every 27th bead on the string. It’s purpose is for you to mark your place and refocus your mind if it starts to wander. They are not counted as a part of the 108, however you should do a quick count just to make sure.
If your mala breaks, don’t fret! A breaking mala, according to history and tradition, is viewed as a positive sign because it represents a break through in your practice and a sign of progression. When your mala breaks, take a moment to reflect on all the breakthroughs you have experienced up to this point in your life. Perhaps the intention that you were chanting in fact came to fruition and you have a new one that needs set in place. If you were really digging that mala, you can restring it, bless it and set a new intention. If you aren’t crafty, get in touch with the maker, as most are happy to re-string your mala.
To get you started in your practice, here’s a list of meditation mantras:
  1. “I am open to abundance of the universe.”
  2. “I am at peace with what is, what was and what will be.”
  3. “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
  4. “I am enough.”
  5. “Money flows easily and effortlessly to me.”
  6. “I am a magnet for joy, love and abundance.”
  7. “I surround myself by those who make me better.”
  8. “I have a purpose in this life.”
  9. “where I am right now is exactly where I need to be.”
  10. “Money flows easily and effortlessly to me.”
If you are in the need for healing and forgiveness:
  1. “I release the past so I can step into the future with pure intentions.”
  2. “As I forgive myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.”
  3. “I set my past free and forgive my participation in it.”
  4. “I follow the principle of live and let live.”
  5. “I forgive others as I forgive myself: with ease, sincerity and loving compassion.”
  6. “I live in the now and design my own future. The past has no effect on my present.”
  7. “I melt into an ocean of love and forgiveness.”
  8. “The past is gone. I live only in the present.”
  9. “I grow stronger and better as I forgive myself and move on.”
How to make your own Mala.
I ran to my local craft store and picked up two bags of wooden beads and a larger bead to use as a Guru. I had needle work thread and a metal yarn needle at home from previous crafts. Here’s a quick run down of what you will need (I always love an excuse to hit the craft store!!):

I started by making the tassel first. You will need a small piece of card board. I used the card board from the 60 count pack of beads on the top right folded in half.


To make your tassel:

  1. Rap thread 20 times around your card board with the beginning of thread and end of thread starting/stopping at the bottom (It will become a part of the tassel fringe!) Cut the end. I chose three different colors because I love color.
  2. With a separate piece of thread that is threaded on the needle; you will put the needle through the loop on the card board. This piece will tie all threads together at the top and give you thread to tie to your mala. Tie tightly.
  3. If you can, pull the cardboard out of the thread. If it will not budge, try to slide your scissors in there and cut the bottom ends, opposite the tie you just made.
  4. With third piece of thread about 12-15 inches, you will gather the tassel together close to the tie you made. Set the tassel on the long piece of thread with enough on one end to tie together. You will knot this and then leave the short end as part of the tassel and wrap the remaining piece around until it is think and is to your liking. Thread the needle and weave the thread through the wrap with the lose end adding to the tassels. Pull tightly the entire time, it shouldn’t go any where. You now have your finished tassel!



Because I picked up a bag of pattern printed beads, I laid out a pattern and made sure I had 108 beads. After I started threading beads and got towards midway, I found I had one bead that wasn’t drilled, so I had to adjust my pattern a bit.


I didn’t cut my thread to a certain length. I just started with the white/cream bead on the left and strung beads the whole way around to the other white cream/bead on the right. Once that was complete, I gave each end of the mala about 4-6 inches of thread before cutting any extra thread off.


Wanting to give my mala a finished look, I added a dark bead that I threaded with BOTH ends, then the elephant bead and finally followed by one extra patterned bead (not shown.) Leaving the thread on the needle, I then looped it through the tassel where the tie on the top is. I took the thread back through the patterned bead and tied a knot under the elephant. I then threaded those loose ends back down through the bead and through the tassel to become a part of the fringes. I did the same with the remaining tie from finishing the tassel. Just thread it through the top with the needle and let it become a part of the tassel. Trim up any ends and your mala is all finished! (I am very sorry that I don’t have any pictures of this part. Bad Gabby.)


If you look closely, under the elephant you can see the knot there I tied off the beaded threads after threading all beads and looping through the tassel before bringing it back through the patterned bead to knot it off. Then threaded it back through the patterned bead and down through the tassel to finish.


My finished mala 😀 If you wanted, you can knot the thread between each bead or use smaller beads as spacers.


Time from start to finish? I’d say about an hour. I ended up going through all my craft stuff to find what I was looking for and taking inventory on what I still need to purchase to make dream catchers. My next DIY on my list.


4 thoughts on “What is a Mala? How do I make one?

  1. This is a beautiful mala!  Quick question for you — does your count of 108 include the elephant and the “extra” beads you added at the end?  Or do your 108 start and stop with the white beads?  Thanks!

  2. Stumbled upon site through another…I’ve aways wanted to know about Mala beads..thanks for explanation and guide…Elsa

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