How to Practice a Yoga Mala

Yoga Mala is a whole-body prayer through a repeated cycle in divisors of 108. It is a devoted offering that can come from mantra Japa (repetitive uttering of a mantra) or yoga asana. When we conduct our practice, we tend to follow a flow of poses from one into another; but often, we intend to increase our difficulty within the poses; to improve our strength, balance, and flexibility. Yoga Mala is less about the poses and more about spiritual practice.

As mala beads, meaning “garland” in Sanskrit, are connected to create a circular and continuous form. When we use the term yoga mala, we are referring to a circular and repeated cycle within our practice. Within the yoga mala, the types of offerings are mantra Japa, pranam and yoga. 

Mantra Japa Offering

This specific mantra involves chanting that can be done internally or aloud; as Japa means that it is offered continuously. When you choose to practice this type of offering, you may select an English mantra or a Sanskrit mantra. While either is perfectly acceptable, the Sanskrit mantras are meant to awaken your whole being with vibration, and not just within the mind. 

The mantra is intended to be short and powerful and can be easily learned through repetition. The belief is that mantras are the sounds that should complement our yoga asanas; and in order to fully understand yoga, you must have knowledge of mantras. 

Pranam Offering

This mantra offering is a gentle yet transformative practice. You may choose to either offer traditional Namaskaras (salutations) or Pranams (prostrations). Prostration is the practice of kneeling and involves the physical gesture of bowing to convey respect, honor, and reverence. The pranam is where the whole body surrenders itself to the earth in a flat position. 

To complete the pranam, the practitioner will begin standing and then lowering the hands to the ground, walking them away from the feet to bring the entire body face-down on the earth. You may place the forehead on the hands like a pillow and will want to remain in the position for at least one cycle of breath. Once you have completed your cycle of breath, you may return to your standing pose. You may also choose to complete your cycles with your eyes closed. 

Yoga Offering

Lastly, we come to the yoga mala which is where you use a combination of poses to equal a total of 108, just like the number of mala beads. You may also do a shortened practice, such as 27 or 54 cycles. 

One example of this would be, but not restricted to, 12 cycles of 9 sun salutations; but keep in mind that this would be quite a challenge for even the most experienced Yogi. As a result, you may want to introduce some modifications within this offering; such as alternating between a full pose and a modified pose. Despite this being an offering, you do not want to deplete all of your energy. 

The Significance Of 108

This number has great significance across many different cultures. One particular example is the 108 chapters of the Rig Veda, which are written in Sanskrit, a language that has 54 letters. Each of the letters has a masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) form; we can, therefore, take 54 and multiply it by 2, to equal 108. 

The relationship to this sacred number is seen in other examples, such as within the field of Ayurveda where there are 108 sacred places. We also already mentioned the 108 mala beads used for prayer. Because the beads specifically have 108 within their cycle, these are great to use within your Yoga Mala practice. 

When To Practice Yoga Mala?

As this practice is meant to cleanse and invigorate the individual, you may choose to practice it during the beginning or end of a change in season or shift in the time of year, such as a holiday time (like the New Year) or even during a personal change.

A Yoga Mala requires dedication but can be a great way to clear a path for new changes in your life. It can dissolve the past, aid us where we may feel stuck in life, and stimulate our intentions for the future. 

How I Manage to Stay Away from Processed Sugars

I love chocolate. And by love, I mean I cannot go a day without eating it. But once I got into my 30’s, the continuous intake started to show. First on my thighs, where the excess fats like to accumulate especially for women. Then my digestion slowed down from all the processed sugars. And my skin was not as fresh-looking as it used to be and I would prefer it to be. But as I can’t really stir myself away from eating any sweets at all, I found out great alternatives.

1. Dates

Dates are rich in proteins (which keeps your muscles strong) and vitamins (which keep you filled with energy). They are also rich in selenium, manganese, copper, and magnesium that keep your bones strong. They include potassium, yet little sodium, regulating your nervous system. As well as they contain iron and are, therefore, suitable for those who suffer iron deficiencies. They promote digestion and bring elasticity to your skin. As they prevent melanin to accumulate in your body, they are much better for you than any magical anti-aging pills.

They also lower the cholesterol levels. And they kind of taste like chocolate, right?

2. Trail Mix

Use the dates mentioned above to create your own. I even like drying my own fruits when I see they are going to be left behind when in season.

Apricots, plums, grapes, mulberry, figs, etc. they are all natural sugars which intensify when dehydrated. Plus, you will be able to have them at any time of the year.

Then make your own trail mix using your favorite ingredients. You can use any or all the above-mentioned things in combination with some nuts. It is a great healthy alternative to any processed sweets. Dried fruit spikes your blood sugar a lot, but if you combine nuts with them, it lowers your glycemic index. You could even add spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and a little sea salt.

3. Black tea, lightly sweetened with either agave syrup or stevia and cacao nibs, and a splash of milk.

Hear me out, before you skip to the next point. Sometimes when you feel hungry, you might just be a little thirst talking. I like to run my creativity wild while preparing my foods and drinks. And sometimes, if the snack seems a little too small, this is a great way to get some extra healthy nutrients in.

4. Compote

It is a light meal that you can pair with a couple of nuts, or just drink the juice that is left.

Simply slice some apples or pears into pieces, add some dried fruit (my favorite are plums and raisins because they add extra sweetness), and water and heat up for about 10 minutes, till the fruit softens.

5. Cinnamon

Sprinkle it wherever you can.

It improves your metabolism, evens out your blood sugar levels and makes your breath nice.

I like mine on the previously mentioned compote. You can mash that up into an applesauce. I also started adding cinnamon to my Greek yogurt and, despite my initial hesitations, it tastes delicious. It is also good in a spread made of cottage cheese, dried plums, sunflower seeds, and cinnamon, of course.

Those will get you through to the next meal and hopefully set the healthy tone for the rest of the day.

But also, sometimes there is no way around having a piece of chocolate. I like to remind myself to go for options like dark chocolate covered with almond. It helps to lower glycemic index. Indulge, rather than beat yourself up for not following the plan to the T.