How to Choose a Mala

choosing mala beads

When we started Japa Mala Beads in 2004 there was only a couple of other companies making and importing mala beads so choosing a mala was a fairly easy task. Nowadays there are a huge number of different materials and designs for mala beads—even with our own company we have expanded from 5 malas to over 160 mala designs! Because of all of these options we have put together this extensive guide of the 8 best methods and tips to help you choose the best mala for you.

There are many factors to consider on your journey to selecting the perfect mala for you to use and wear. We have numbered these tips for you to proceed through them to find your perfect mala, but you certainly do not have to do all of these steps. We do highly recommend that at the very least you do the first and last tips. Being clear on your intention and following and trusting your intuition are the two most potent ways for choosing mala beads.

1. Mala bead intentions and goals

Mala beads are made from sacred woods and seeds and mystical gemstones which all carry specific subtle energies. These healing and energetic properties will affect your body and mind while wearing and using mala beads, so it is important to align these energies with your intentions for your japa meditation as well as your spiritual and life goals. Before starting to shop for a new mala take some time to reflect on what your intention is for using and wearing mala beads. If you are not clear on what your larger spiritual and life goals are, then also take some contemplation time to make a list of these goals.

Once you are clear on your intentions and goals then you can choose mala beads based on the main categories of intentions below. You will notice that there are still lots of choices in each intention section so continue to refine your choice by using some or all of the proceeding steps.

2. Beauty and attraction to beads

Phycologists that have studied the effect of color and light on our emotional and mental states have found some common patterns but have also seen that colors affect each person differently. According to chakra therapy, our attraction and reaction to certain colors may be linked to our unique mental and emotional imbalances. Both color and chakra therapy believe that wearing and using specific color in your environment can have healing properties. Therefore, you should consider the traditional energetic effects of the colors of beads in your mala when choosing a new one or wearing or using one in your collection.

3. Meaning of Mala Bead Colors

Mala Bead ColorsThe look and design of mala beads vary quite a lot—from a simple unadorned strand of wood or seed beads to malas made with beautiful gemstones that are accented with complementing crystals, metal spacer beads, and hand-crafted tassels. Surrounding yourself with beautiful, sacred and spiritually uplifting objects can be a powerful way to create happiness, hope, and inspiration in your daily life. As you shop for mala beads pay close attention to what designs you feel attracted to and drawn towards. Reflect on what exactly is creating this attraction (color, shape, design, style, etc.) to hone in on what elements to focus on.

The physical and spiritual symbolism of mala colors:

  • Red mala beads represent kundalini shakti, power, passion, desire, sexuality, and love. The red color activates the 1st chakra: Muladhara. The chromotherapy effects of the color red are: warming, energizing, stimulating, and strengthening. In India, red is the most frequently used color for auspicious occasions like marriages, births, ceremonies, and festivals. These ceremonies and rituals often involve putting a red tilaka mark of kumkum is put on the forehead of the devotee.
  • Orange mala beads represent prana (life force energy) and enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, creativity, determination, attraction, success, encouragement. The orange color activates the 2nd chakra: Svadhisthana. The chromotherapy effects of the color orange are: warming, attraction, abundance, and enjoyment. Orange is the sacred color for the Hindus as is worn by yogi ascetics to symbolizes their quest for enlightenment.
  • Yellow mala beads represent personal power, self-esteem, willfulness, and energy. The yellow color activates the 3rd chakra: Manipura. The chromotherapy effects of the color yellow are: strengthening, awakening, energizing, cheerfulness, confidence, and vitality.
  • Green mala beads represent compassion, universal love, growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. The green color activates the 4th chakra: Anahata. The chromotherapy effects of the color green are: balancing, harmonizing, soothing, rejuvenating, cleansing and calming.
  • Blue mala beads represent peace, communication, inspiration, expression, trust, loyalty, confidence and faith. The blue color activates the 5th chakra: Vissudha. The chromotherapy effects of the color blue are: cooling, tranquility, patience, sincerity, devotion, and understanding.
  • Purple mala beads represent knowledge, intuition, insight, higher wisdom, power, nobility, luxury, and ambition. The purple color activates the 6th chakra: Ajna. The chromotherapy effects of the color purple are: transformation, detoxification, meditation, inspiration, compassion, and contemplation.
  • White mala beads represent light, goodness, innocence, and purity. The white color activates the 7th chakra: Sahasrara. The chromotherapy effects of the color white are: balance, harmony, perfection, consciousness, divination, cleanliness and simplicity.
  • Black mala beads represent power, elegance, formality, and mystery. The chromotherapy effects of the color black are: protection, seriousness, death, mourning, mystery, transformation and secrecy.

4. Chakra mala beads

The tradition of tantra yoga describes seven main subtle energy centers in the body located along the spine. Each chakra is associated with a set of organs and systems which correspond with the areas in our body where a lot of energy flows. When this energy becomes blocked or excessive it can present as physical, mental and emotional issues. Gemstones and crystals have been used to help balance, enhance and unblock the seven chakra energy centers and you can find these same stones used in mala beads. As you read through this list of the primary chakra properties note anything that resonates with your intentions, challenges, and personality.

  • 1st Chakra (Muladhara) –  This chakra tends to all the survival needs and one’s sense of security. The root chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as groundedness, stability, mental and physical health and prosperity. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as insecurity, unsettled feelings, and clinging tendencies. Choose one of our root chakra malas to balance this chakra.
  • 2nd Chakra (Svadhisthana) –  This chakra deals with our needs and desires, both sexually and emotionally. The sacral chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as sensuality, sexuality, contentment, and creativity. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as sexual dysfunction, lack of sensation, and unstable emotions. Choose one of our sacral chakra malas to balance this chakra.
  • 3rd Chakra (Manipura) –  This chakra deals with our personal power, self-esteem, willfulness, and energy. The solar plexus chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as willpower, dynamic action, self-esteem, ambition, and confidence. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as low self-esteem, lack of vision and fatigue. Choose one of our solar plexus chakra malas to balance this chakra.
  • 4th Chakra (Anahata) –  This chakra deals with our ability to be open and able to love ourselves and others. The heart chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as love for oneself and others, kindness, compassion, open-heartedness. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as depression, seclusion, isolation, and cynicism. Choose one of our heart chakra malas to balance this chakra.
  • 5th Chakra (Vishuddha) –  This chakra is where the purification and harmonizing of all opposites takes place. The throat chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as open communication, expression, and truth. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as isolation, dishonesty, and poor communication. Choose one of our throat chakra malas to balance this chakra.
  • 6th Chakra (Ajna) –  This chakra controls all higher mental activities including intellectual, emotional, and mental intelligence, and insight. The third eye chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as strong levels of intellect, intention, and intuition. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as confusion, dishonesty, distraction, and lack of direction. Choose one of our third eye chakra malas to balance this chakra.
  • 7th Chakra (Sahasrara) –  This chakra allows us to experience the unity of all things and to have the realization that everything is interwoven and connected. The crown chakra’s balanced qualities are expressed as connection with the divine, ability to perceive, analyze and assimilate information, open-mindedness, wisdom, and self-mastery. Imbalanced qualities of this chakra express as negativity, separation, duality, poor short-term memory, poor coordination, and hallucinations. Choose one of our crown chakra malas to balance this chakra.

Ultimate Mala Bead Finder

Check out our ultimate mala bead finder to filter all of our mala beads by gemstone, intention, chakra, price, color and mala style!

Find Your Perfect Mala

5. Zodiac gems and birthstones

Throughout human history, different gemstones and crystals have been assigned to different astrological signs and birth months based on associating the energetic properties of gemstones with the personality qualities of the zodiac. Astrological gemstones, also known as Astral stones, can be different than modern birthstone associations but are based on similar principles.

For Zodiac gemstones, the theory is that each sun sign is linked to one or more gemstones that enable the wearer to evoke hidden powers and enhance positive personality traits.

Zodiac gemstones

Aquarius: Onyx
Pisces: Aquamarine
Aries: Moonstone
Taurus: Smoky Quartz
Gemini: Garnet
Cancer: Malachite
Leo: Larimar
Virgo: Citrine
Libra: Azurite
Scorpio: Amethyst
Sagittarius: Turquoise
Capricorn: Rose Quartz
Birthstones are one or more gemstones that have been selected for each of the 12 months of the year. Originally the list of birthstones was limited to one per month but this list has been revised several times in order to allow more options. Many people believe that wearing one’s birthstone brings good luck and is a charm or talisman that carries protective powers. Unfortunately, several birthstones are not readily available in the proper size to make mala beads from.


January: Garnet
February: Amethyst
March: Aquamarine, Bloodstone
April: Diamond
May: Emerald
June: Pearl, Alexandrite, Moonstone
July: Ruby
August: Peridot, Sardonyx, Spinel
September: Sapphire
October: Tourmaline, Opal
November: Citrine, Topaz
December: Zircon, Tanzanite, Turquoise

Necklace mala beads and bracelet mala

6. Full necklace mala or wrist mala

Another important consideration on how to choose a japa mala is how you intend to wear and use it. We have found that mala bracelets can be a bit easier to use with japa meditation (mantra chanting) as you do not have to manage the long hang of 108 beads. If you are doing a large number of repetitions of 108 mantras then using wrist malas can create a challenge of keeping track of multiple mantra rounds, thus a full mala works best for long meditations. Some people prefer the feel and look of bracelets and necklaces differently, so it is important to note your personal wearing preference when choosing between a bracelet mala or a necklace mala.

7. Bead size and mala length

How to Choose a MalaThe standard sizes of beads used in malas are 6mm and 8mm. You will find a few malas made with larger beads of 10mm and 12mm but these can be difficult to wear and practice japa mediation with. The size of your fingers and the agility of your hands will be a determining factor to the best size of bead to use for japa meditation. The bead size, along with additional spacer and marker beads, will also determine the overall length and circumference of a mala. For a wrist or bracelet mala, you want the mala’s circumference to be about 1/2 inch larger than the size of your wrist. For a full 108 bead mala the length is a personal preference of where the guru bead feels best resting on your chest. While we do not recommend wrapping a necklace mala around one’s wrist, the mala’s size will also be important if you want to wear it wrapped.

Choose Mala Beads by Size

(Bracelet malas are 5.5″ to 7.75″ and Necklace malas are 25″ to 42″)


8. Intuition

Accessing and using your intuition can be a powerful way to choose your mala. Your intuition is sometimes called the sixth sense and is often described as a gut feeling, hunch or sense of inner-knowing. Tapping into your intuition can be very helpful If you feel stuck deciding between two or three different malas. Everyone has their own technique for accessing their intuition but a good place to start is by closing your eyes, breathing deeply and shifting your focus away from your thoughts to what you are feeling in your body.

Still need help choosing a mala?

If you are really confused and none of the above tips and methods help you to choose a mala necklace or bracelet feel free to reach out to us for advice and suggestions. We would love to help you find the perfect mala to deepen your meditation and promote peace and well-being in you!

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