What Are Mala Beads & How Are Malas Used?

What Are Mala Beads & How Are Malas Used?

Alysia Waters

Mala beads have been used in spiritual and religious practices for centuries. These days, they hold various symbolic meanings and are used in several ways. 

From being worn as a trendy accessory to being used in yoga practices and meditation, mala necklaces and bracelets are more popular than ever! But what are mala beads, how do you choose the right mala beads for you, and how is mala jewelry used?

What are mala beads?

Mala beads are used to create mala jewelry, typically in the form of necklaces and bracelets. They’re usually made from a variety of gemstones, with different gemstones holding different special meanings. Sandalwood mala beads are also quite popular.

Mala beads made with different gemstones sit on a table alongside beautiful handmade malas.


The first mala beads came from India, thousands of years ago. The word “mala” is sanskrit for “meditation garland”, which is fitting, as the use of malas is rooted in Hinduism and Buddhism— used by monks for meditation and prayer.

Traditionally, malas are made with 108 beads. There are different theories as to the significance of the number 108, but a common one is that the number 1 represents God, 0 represents humility and emptiness, and 8 represents infinity. 

There is also a 109th bead—the guru bead, which attaches to the tassel. The guru bead is a very important and sacred part of your mala. When using your mala in your meditation practice, the guru bead is where you stop, and reverse your count if you’d like to continue.

Types of mala beads and choosing your mala

When it comes to choosing the right mala for you, it’s best to follow your intuition. If a certain bead or piece is calling to you, trust that it’s for a reason!

That being said, if you’re looking for additional guidance, there are certain intentions and energies associated with certain gemstones that are used to make mala beads. 

A woman's hand adds mala beads to a string, creating beautiful handmade malas by Seed + Bloom Designs in Kamloops, BC.

Common mala bead gemstones and their meaning:

Howlite symbolism: Howlite is a calming gemstone and is often associated with peace of mind, improved sleep, memory, knowledge, patience, communication, awareness, and emotional expression.

Black obsidian symbolism: Black obsidian is a protective gemstone and is associated with protection against negativity, cleansing the aura, grounding, and spiritual connection.

Green aventurine symbolism: Green aventurine is a comforting gemstone associated with manifestation, prosperity, opportunity, healing the heart, well-being, and calm. 

Sodalite symbolism: Sodalite is a calming gemstone that is associated with objectivity, truth, intuition, rationality, self-esteem, emotional balance, and self-acceptance.

Rose quartz symbolism: Rose quartz is a loving gemstone associated with universal love, healthy relationships, opening the heart, self-love, friendship, and inner healing.

Angelite symbolism: Angelite is a mind-opening gemstone associated with spirituality, peace, calm, self-expression, communication, connection, and healing.

Amazonite symbolism: Amazonite is a soothing gemstone associated with prosperity, success, good fortune, luck, calm, and balance.

Yellow jade symbolism: Yellow jade is an energetic gemstone associated with identity, optimism, intellect, personal power, fulfillment, wisdom, and good fortune.

Magnesite symbolism: Magnesite is a peaceful gemstone associated with the third eye, visualization, ideation, calm, clarity, creativity, and imagination.

Malachite symbolism: Malachite is a healing gemstone associated with spirituality, love, change, breaking old patterns, transformation, and growth.

Amethyst symbolism: Amethyst is a calming stone associated with peace, dreams, clarity, tranquility, balance, intuition, creativity, and expansion of the mind.

Jasper symbolism: Jasper is a healing stone associated with well-being, protection, balance, being present, reflection, spiritual connection, grounding, stability, and comfort.

Carnelian symbolism: Carnelian is a stimulating gemstone associated with motivation, creativity, courage, positivity, vitality, success, health, and strength.

Riverstone symbolism: Riverstone is an energetic gemstone associated with change, initiative, acceptance, growth, willpower, luck, and abundance. 

Snow quartz symbolism: Snow quartz is a clarifying gemstone associated with mental clarity, understanding, balance, emotional control, perspective, and patience.

Tiger’s eye symbolism: Tiger’s eye is a protective gemstone associated with good fortune, wealth, balance, releasing fear, mental clarity, focus, and objectivity.

Lavender stone symbolism: Lavender stone, or lavender quartz, is a healing gemstone associated with joy, love, self-worth, self-esteem, and appreciation.

This is just a small glimpse into the materials used to create mala beads. If there is a certain part of your life you want to improve, try researching which types of gemstones can help you in those areas. You can also choose your mala beads based on your personality, or simply allow your intuition to guide you.

How to use a mala in your everyday life

Using your mala consistently can improve your everyday life! 

The general idea is that your mala is associated with an intention. For example, all of Seed + Bloom Designs’ handmade malas are created with an intention in mind, based on the types of gemstones used. However, you are free to choose your own intention based on how the mala makes you feel, or what you need at that time.

Hands held in prayer position are drapped in multiple handmade malas, made with ethically-sourced mala beads.

The mala then serves as a reminder to help you reconnect with your intention throughout your day. 

Malas are often used in mindfulness practices, breathwork, and meditation. Hold your mala in one of your hands, and move your fingers along the beads, taking a deep breath with each one. This is a great practice to help you slow down and enter a more meditative state. 

You can also use a mala to practice mantras or positive affirmations. Similar to with breathwork, move your fingers along the beads, and repeat your chosen mantra with each bead. Learn more about the benefits of positive affirmations (and view our list of 100+ that you can use) here!

Alysia from Seed + Bloom Designs strings mala beads onto a handmade mala.


You can use a mala to practice mindfulness, incorporate a mala into your yoga practice, or simply wear it to help remind you to live intentionally. 

Find Your Handmade Mala

If you’re looking for a mala, we invite you to browse our collection of beautiful handmade malas. Seed + Bloom Designs uses ethically-sourced mala beads and each piece is created thoughtfully with intention and care.

Follow Seed + Bloom Designs on Instagram for more insights and to stay up-to-date on our handmade jewelry offerings!