In honor of the New Year, I signed up to participate on January 1st in Yoga Hawai‘i’s special 108 sun salutations Yoga Mala class.
The Global Mala Yoga for Peace Project was founded by Shiva Rea to “unite the global yoga community from every continent, school or approach to form a “mala around the earth” through collective practices based upon the sacred cycle of 108. It is also to “Unite Yoga, Seva and Collective Consciousness as a seed of a world-wide experiment into the power of meditation in action.”
Yoga Hawai‘i’s yoga mala class was led by 4 different teachers: Maya Siklai, Mizuho Williamson, Tania Jo Ingrahm, and Kara Miller. The 108 sun salutations were divided into 4 sets, and each teacher led a version of their set of 27 sun salutations. The entire 108 sun salutations were completed in about 2 hours. The class began with Maya leading warm up stretches and then we chanted this prayer of protection:
Saha navavatu saha nau bhunaktu
Saha viryam karavavahai
Tejasvi na vadhitam astu
Om shanti, shanti shantih
I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the repetition of sun salutations achieved the same feeling I get when I chant with my japa mala (which is usually a round of 108 mantras) I felt calmer and more grounded with every sun salutation. By the end of the 108, I was in total bliss, and I was so grateful and appreciative to start my new year in such a peaceful, expansive, and joyful way.
See the video below as co-owners of Yoga Hawai‘i Rupali Embry and Tania Jo Ingrahm, along with their yoga class, pay tribute to the sun by performing 108 sun salutations to usher in the New Year.
Please check out Yoga Hawai‘i’s website at www.yoga-hawaii.com
The word ‘mala’ originates from ancient India and its translation in Sanskrit means “garland from above” or “heavenly garland.” Mala, or more correctly, japa mala beads were used for meditation and prayer and this spiritual practice spread to Japan, Korea, and China. When the Romans invaded India, they thought the word japa was ‘jap,’ the Latin word for ‘rose.’ When the Romans returned home from India, mala beads were called a ‘rosarium,’ which later evolved into what we know today as the rosary, part of the Roman Catholic tradition.
Malas are traditionally 108 beads with one bead as the top bead called a “sumeru” or “guru” bead. There is no single absolute correct answer why there are 108 beads and some examples of the many explanations are:
~The relationship of the twelve astrological houses, multiplied by the nine planets in our solar system
~There are 108 energy lines that come together to form the heart chakra
~The 108 upanishads, 108 paths to god
There are countless answers for the reason why there are 108 beads.
Mala beads were originally made from the Bodhi tree (a tree the Buddha meditated under and became enlightened). Today malas are made from wood, seeds, bone, and semi-precious gemstones. Four of the most sacred types of malas are made from:
Tulsi: sacred basil, which is the most revered wood worshiped in India and is said to balance your aura and Vata and Kapha doshas.
Crystal: which assists with healing and balancing of the chakras and negates negative energy.
Sandalwood: With its cooling affects encourages tranquility and elevates deep levels of meditation.
Rudraksha: A seed that represents Lord Shiva’s tears.
When choosing the material of your mala, keep in mind the energetic influence and properties that each one has.
Japa Mala is accompanied with the chanting of mantras or prayers.
According to Wikipedia:
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that are considered capable of “creating spiritual transformation” Their use and type varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra.
It is said that through japa the devotee attains one-pointedness, or extreme focus, on the chosen deity or principal idea of the mantra. The vibrations and sounds of the mantra are considered extremely important, and thus reverberations of the sound are supposed to awaken the Kundalini or spiritual life force and even stimulate chakras according to many Hindu schools of thought.
Some very common mantras, called Nama japa, are formed by taking a deity’s name and saluting it thus: “Aum Namah (name of deity)” (meaning “I honor/salute…”) or “Aum Jai (name of deity)” (meaning “Hail…”). There are many including:
▪ Aum Namah Shivaya or Aum Namo Bhagavate Rudraya Namah (Aum and salutations to Lord Shiva)
▪ Aum Namo Narayanaya or Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevãya (Aum and salutations to God Vishnu)
Aum Shri Ganeshaya Namah (Aum and salutations to Shri Ganesha)
Mantras are personal and whether you are chanting “Om Nama Shivaya” or “My body, mind and spirit are at peace,” it is important to know that you can create your own words, phrases or affirmations that resonate with your heart and spirit.
The Gayatri Mantra was the very first mantra I learned and is considered one of the most universal of all Hindu mantras, invoking the universal Brahman as the principle of knowledge and the illumination of the primordial Sun:
Aum Bhūr Bhuva Svaha
(Aum) Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yo Nahah Prachodayāt, (Aum)
A japa mala is not to be worn for personal adornment or to be handled by anyone but you. However a personal mala worn during japa mantra is a wonderful accessory that will absorb the vibrations of the chanting. Through your continual touch your japa mala’s power and vibration will build.
The japa mala is held in the right hand and each bead is rotated forward toward you using the middle finger.
If you already have a mala, cherish it and its powerful healing and protective energies. If you do not already have one, you will have so much fun picking one out that resonates and call out just to you. . . You will know as soon as you touch it or wear it that it belongs to you.