Japa Malas or malas are beautiful strands of 108 sacred beads that have been used in meditation for millennia by Hindus. And modern yogis are now finding empowerment and enlightenment in these holy beads.
In Sanskrit, Japa mala translates to “prayer beads for spiritual practice.”
Hindus traditionally hold their malas in their right hand and slide their thumb across each bead to count each time a mantra is recited, for a total of 108 times. As a yogi, it was only a matter of time until I learned how to make my very own Japa mala.
Making your own DIY Japa mala necklace is a very meditative practice that can be just as healing as actually using the mala to recite mantras.
What Is the Significance of 108?
Ever wonder why mala necklaces have 108 beads?
The exact meaning of the number 108 is open to interpretation across cultures and disciplines, but there is no denying its significance. Look at where 108 shows up:
- In the ancient text of the Vedas, there are 108 Hindu Scriptures (or Upanishads)
- In Vedic Astrology, there are 12 zodiac houses and nine planets – when multiplied, and the total is 108
- There are 108 Qi energy lines (or meridians) within the body
- In numerology, the number 1 stands for God, 0 is the wholeness of spirit found through enlightenment or non-attachment, and 8 represents infinity
Are we interested in learning more about 108 as it relates to our yoga practice?
DIY Japa Mala Necklace Materials:
Mala beads are made from many different materials – stone, wood, bone, or seeds from the Rudraksha tree.
Japa mala necklaces are traditionally strung on a hand-knotted cord with 108 beads, plus a guru bead (the anchor at the center of the mala, above the tassel) and a tassel.
To choose the beads, it may be best to go to a bead store and let the energy of the beads speak to you.
You can also find most of these items in a bead store, so it’s a good option for a one-stop-shop.
Bead smith or a board to layout your beads and accessories (optional)
Jewelry tweezers or pliers (they should have a sharp point)
Bead cord (I like to use the ones with the needle already attached for easy stringing)
Yarn or fabric cord to make the tassel (or you can find individual pre-made tassels)
Jeweler’s glue or crazy glue
One medium-sized stone or 12mm bead for the guru bead
108 6-8mm beads
Additional options – charms or accent beads
How to Choose Beads for Your DIY Japa Mala Necklace Based on Their Energetic Properties
Crystals and gemstones carry different vibration frequencies, giving them specific properties that help you heal, amplify your energy, and even invite love into your life. You can choose a crystal based on its healing properties, color, or just simply because it calls to you.
Here are a few ideas to start with:
Apache Tears, Amethyst, Obsidian
Agate, Jasper, Smoky Quartz
Blue Lace Agate, Blue Calcite, Aquamarine
Emerald, Rose Quartz, Chrysoprase
Abundance or Luck:
Jade, Aventurine, Citrine
Ocean Jasper, Peridot, Carnelian
Apatite, Lapis Lazuli, Moonstone, Sodalite
Clear quartz, Calcite, Hematite, Azurite
Traditionally, Japa mala necklaces never touched the ground as those who believed that to be a sign of disrespect. And when not in use, they were to be placed in a pouch, away from the elements.
Malas (and crystals alike) are believed to carry the energy of the individual who wears them, so they are not be handled or touched by anyone else to absorb their energy.
How to Choose Beads for Your Japa Mala Based on Your Astrological Sign
In Hinduism, Vedic Astrology plays a significant role in daily life. By choosing beads based on your astrological sign, you can support and strengthen the characteristics that your sign embodies.
Find the stones for your sign below:
Agate, Aquamarine, Aventurine, Dolomite, Jade, Tourmaline
Emerald, Malachite, Amber, Angel Wing Agate, Chrysanthemum stone
Agate, Apatite, Citrine, Emerald, Natural glass
Bornite (Peacock Rock), Citrine, Moonstone, Ruby
Carnelian, Onyx, Golden Topaz, Sunstone
Malachite, Unakite, Calcite, Cluster Quartz
Gold Rutilated Quartz, Fire Opal, Fire Agate, Flourite
Smoky quartz, Topaz, Amethyst, Sodalite
Blue topaz, Turquoise, Lapis Lazuli, Tourmaline
Agate, Tiger’s Eye, Smoky Quartz, Black Tourmaline
Garnet, Hematite, Amethyst, Rainforest Jasper
Aquamarine, Bloodstone, Blue Lace Agate, Lapis Lazuli
Follow This Step-by-Step DIY Guide to Create Your Japa Mala Necklace, Charged With Intention:
Stay open in the creative process and follow your intuition. Creativity flows best when you do not overthink the process. Before you begin, set an intention for your mala so that you can channel and manifest your specific preference whenever you wear it.
- Gather All Your Japa Mala Materials
On a flat and clean surface, prepare your 108 beads for stringing. If you are using various beads, you may want to lay them in the order you want to string them.
Tie the End Knot
Take your bead cord and measure a 2-inch segment from the end without the needle. Tie a large knot at this 2-inch mark, leaving the extra bit of yarn at the end. This will be the starting point for your mala, and you will need the extra 2 inches of cord to tie the guru bead and tassel.
Thread the First Bead
Taking the end with the needle, thread your first bead onto the cord, and push it to the future with the knot. Who should press it firmly against the end knot?
Add a Knot
Extend your index and middle finger (use your less dominant hand for this step). Wrap the cord around these two fingers twice. You can hold the cable in place with your thumb.
Take the cord’s needle end and slide it into the loop, sliding it behind your fingers/hand. Grab your tweezer/plier with your dominant hand.
Next, pull the cord taut until a knot starts to form toward the top of the bead. Try to get the knot as close to the top as you can. Then use the tweezer/plier to slide the knot down so that it tightens snug against the bead.
Add Beads + Charge Your Japa Mala.
Continue the process of adding a bead then tying a knot. Remember, the knot should fit snugly against each bead.
Channel the energy of your intention as you go – chant a mantra or bring your intention to mind with each knot you tie. This process can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. Take your time and enjoy the creative process!
Add the Guru Bead
Take your guru bead and insert both ends of the thread into the hole in the bead. Once threaded through the bead, tie the ends into a knot. Then tie a second knot.
Tying it twice symbolizes the complementary nature of masculine and feminine energies. This will also firmly secure the bead in place. Leave the two strands hanging for now – we will use these in the next step for the tassel.
Make the Tassel
Take a 3×5 inch card (a credit card or a piece of stiff cardboard is perfect) and start wrapping the yarn or cord around the card. The amount of times you cover the thread is up to you. The more you wrap, the thicker the tassel will be. In this example, I wrapped it around the card about 25 times.
Slide the cord off the card, but hold it securely, so it does not unravel. Take the two pieces of string hanging from the guru bead and tie two knots on the tassel’s inside portion. Once secure, take your glue and dab a little on the knots. Allow the glue to dry for approximately 5 minutes. Once the glue is dry, cut the excess string close to the knot.
Cut another 8-10-inch piece of yarn or cord and wrap it around the tassel (about half an inch from the top) 5 times. It is wrapped five times around the tassel to represent the five elements (earth, air, fire, water, ether).
Tie a double knot, then dab a little glue onto the knot. Allow this to dry for 5 minutes. When dry, cut the excess string and smooth it against the existing tassel threads.
Lastly, cut the bottom of the tassel loop and trim the ends, so they are even. This is symbolic of letting go and releasing any past energy that is no longer needed.
Final Step: Don’t Forget to Cleanse + Charge Your New Japa Mala Necklace
It is essential to cleanse and positively charge your mala, as many hands have touched the beads, cord, and guru bead. You can do this by lighting palo santo or sage and wafting the smoke around the mala. You can also soak your mala in saltwater or fresh spring water – or place it under the light of a full moon.
To maintain the integrity of your Japa mala and ensure it thrives through the years, polish any wood beads with sandalwood oil, clean healing stones with chemical-free soap or coconut oil, and handle it with loving care.