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Just Like Yoga, Life is A Practice

My mother is mentally ill, and my father has been absent for most of my life. At the age of four, I remember my first heartbreak. My mother left my father for another man, and in an instant, my life changed forever. I missed my father desperately, and I grew to resent my mother for leaving him and splitting our family apart. Years had passed before I saw my father again, and during those years my mother’s mental state progressed. Feelings of abandonment and sorrow became my new normal.

My mother suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), an illness that affects roughly 1 in 40 adults in the U.S. OCD is often a debilitating and toxic disease, not just for the sufferers but everyone in their lives, too. There is no cure.

My mother had a fear of germs, so I was never permitted to enter the house without fully stripping down at the front door and stepping into trash bags––to protect the floor from my "dirty" contaminated body––and was ordered to hop into the shower. I was also ordered to wash my hair and body five or six times until I was cleansed from the filth of the outside world. If I accidentally touched a spot that was "dirty" or "off-limits", I was scolded and asked to start the cleaning process again from the beginning. Often my skin was so dry that it would crack and bleed.

Growing up in such a deranged, paranoid, and irrational environment full of fear, I experienced dire repercussions. I became easily vulnerable, and quickly found destructive ways to soothe my suffering, empty soul.

But still, I desperately wanted my mother’s love and attention, despite that she was incapable of meeting my most basic needs. She was unwilling to get help with her illness. As a result, I felt as though I couldn’t depend on anyone. I longed for affection. The attention I did receive from her was negative––often blaming me for her illness. 

My mother’s severe case of OCD permeated my life's experience. I felt that my childhood was stolen from me, and it took me a long time to understand that it was not my fault. I longed for love and approval, especially from my mother. Her lack of compassion had a devastating impact on my ability to become a healthy adult. My childhood trauma shook me profoundly. I've lived with low self-esteem, and severe anxiety and depression. 

As a child, my outlook on life was one of hopelessness, fear, and uncertainty. As an adult, I learned that the only way to overcome adversities is to work through them no matter how challenging or daunting the solution might be. For me, yoga has been a profound ritual of self-discovery, and without it, I would have been lost.

When we practice yoga, we're doing so much more than stretching and strengthening our muscles––we transform ourselves from the inside out. We become our true selves. After my son was born, I had initially sought out yoga to lose the baby weight. But the gift I received in return was far more valuable than dropping a few pounds. I had found a pathway to a brand new, transformational life. Yoga broke me down piece-by-piece––I became unglued. This process was vital to my healing.

In time, I began to shed the deep seeded wounds of my past. Yoga and meditation created a safe environment for me to thrive finally. Allowing myself to be physically vulnerable in certain postures showed me how to let myself be emotionally vulnerable so I could grow. I don’t believe I was conscious of that at the time, but I knew intuitively that I needed to continue to practice if I wanted to change my life. I had found solace. I continue to experience this peace on my mat every single day.

I held my emotions in every cell, tissue, and fiber of my body. For all my life, I had felt frozen in fear and stuck in a body that I hated. Yoga peeled away those negative layers that infected my heart and mind. This allowed me to purge long-held painful emotional patterns and over time, my authentic self began to shine through. My mantra meditation practice helped me feel more at home and relaxed in my body and mind. Using gemstone mala beads gave me even more healing and inner peace.

Today I have more compassion for others and myself. Yoga makes me more conscious of my spirit and my role in the world. Every time I step onto my yoga mat reinforces the idea that I matter, and that I have a purpose. I leave the studio feeling prepared for a world that can be unforgiving.

I am choosing to share my story because I feel that it is important to bring awareness and understanding to the impact that mental illness has on children. Without help, children raised in chaos face insurmountable odds. They lack the opportunity to live meaningful, rich, and fulfilling lives. Children who grow up in these conditions are survivors. Many have been through hell and back, and continue to feel trapped well into their adulthood.

For me, finding peace and acceptance with my mother’s mental illness took many years. I know now that to live a healthy life, I need to accept that my mother did the best she could with the tools she was given. Overcoming low self-esteem, addiction, and coming to terms with the loss of my childhood will be a battle I continue over the course of my life. 

Please know there is light at the end of the tunnel. Help comes in many forms: Counseling, 12-step programs, and yes, yoga. On our journey toward self-discovery, if we are open-minded, we eventually accept life as it is. Through my experience, I can assure you that it is possible to find love and acceptance for yourself––that you are good enough just the way you are. My helplessness, fear, and uncertainty have lessened over the years, and I have gained insight into sobriety, intensive therapy, and my practice. It can be done.

Much like yoga, if you can learn to accept your life as a practice rather than striving for perfection, you allow yourself to truly blossom. I take pleasure in the little things––the small achievements in my movements, practiced over many classes, and allowing myself to be content with the progress, however slow that may be. I’ve discovered great value in applying this same principle to my emotional healing.

What types of beads are used in a japa mala?


A japa mala is a meditation tool used to count Sanskrit mantras or other sacred prayers. A mala bead necklace contains 108 counting beads and a bracelet mala has 27 beads. Malas have many names and is also referred to as yoga beads, meditation beads, prayer beads, mala necklace, Buddha beads, yoga necklace, yoga jewelry, japa rosary and mala beads. Each type of bead weather it be a crystal, seed or wooden bead has a meaning and significance. For example:

Rudraksha seeds represent the secluded and quiet ascetic life required for the worship of the Hindu god Shiva. Whatever your beliefs, the rough and intricate texture of a rudraksha mala encourages us to deeply contemplate and accept the fact that things do not always go as we planned.

Rosewood mala beads have been traditionally used to cultivate the qualities associated with a warm heart, compassion, kindness, and love. These beads symbolize the human desire to reach up to the heavens—to connect with the infinite—while remaining grounded, steadfast, centered and true.

Tigers eye is a powerful and protective gemstone that stimulates taking action and making decisions. It is known to increase feelings of determination, willpower, self-discipline and personal power. It is a stone that brings good luck and prosperity. It can also help one to see clearly, without subjectiveness, like a tiger. It is associated with spiritual growth and awakening the Kundalini, and stimulates the root, sacral and solar plexus chakras. 

Citrine is famous for its ability to help acquire more monetary wealth, and sustain it. It attracts abundance, prosperity and success. Citrine increases creativity and imagination as well as stimulate solution based thinking. It also attracts love, and happiness and acts as a protective shield against negative energy. Citrine is associated with the solar plexus as it helps one to access their personal power and enhances self-confidence.

Clear quartz mala beads are the most powerful healing stone on earth as well as a magnificent energy amplifier of all energy that around it, that has been programmed and intended into it. This is because of its one of a kind helical and crystalline make-up. It is thought also to be a master healer and can be used to treat any condition. Rock crystal is a stone that is used to align the crown chakra, which is the gateway to how we connect and respond to the universe beyond ourselves. It is where our beliefs, thoughts and spiritual connectedness is derived. 

Mala beads can also be related to a specific Diety and mantra; for example, rudraksha beads symbolize the tears of Lord Shiva and bring good health and protection. White sandalwood can be used to appease the Gods and red sandalwood, on the other hand, can be used to pray to the Goddesses and the chant of Shri Durga - resonating with courage and compassion.

Watch the video below to lear more about what types of beads are used in a japa mala.

Our guide to mala bead bracelets

Mala beads have become a necessary accessory and a vital adornment for the practice of yoga, meditation, and self-reflection. Used in many different spiritual religions, malas are a string of counting beads worn around the neck or wrist. Mala is a Sanskrit word, which translates to “garland.” Mala beads are also known as Buddhist beads, prayer beads, monk beads, mantra beads, meditation beads, Buddha beads, japa malas, Tibetan worry beads, yoga beads, or Hindu prayer beads. 

Malas date back to around the 8th century BCE, when they were in the Indian subcontinent by yogi meditators. Malas were typically made of fragrant woods such as sandalwood or rosewood. Malas were also created thousands of years ago from the sacred seeds of the Rudraksha tree. In the Hindu traditions, the garlands were used as a method of tracking the repetition of mantras. Mantras are used as a form of practicing concentration, and some mantras are used as a prayer to specific Hindu deities. This is why malas are sometimes called Buddhist prayer beads. The use of these strung beads became very popular, traveling throughout the continent and eventually taking hold with the Buddha’s followers as well.

Similarly, as with a significant number of the Buddhist practices we know today, malas traversed the world, experienced new places, and changed with the way of life of the land. Malas became popular in China, Japan, Burma, Nepal, India, and Tibet. With each new culture, the outline and utilization of malas changed marginally. Malas from various nations are frequently recognizable from each other in their material, tuft, master or meru bead, spacers, and symbology. Despite the fact that they are customarily utilized for tallying mantras, individuals wear mala pieces of jewelry and yoga wristbands so as to convey their training with them. Although they are traditionally used for counting mantras, people wear mala necklaces and yoga bracelets in order to carry their practice with them. As people wear them, they eventually began to be made from more valuable and rare gemstones. 

In the past, Mala Beads were strictly comprised of 108 beads and were primarily used only by Master Yogis, or famous Monks in order to count their prayers, breaths or prostrations. One of a malas primary purposes is counting mantras or sacred Sanskrit prayers. Mantra recitation is a common practice in many Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Practitioners choose a mantra and then chant the mantra 108 times (or a multiple of 108) as a form of meditation, focus, reflection, intention-setting and concentration practice.

Like yoga, meditation and Buddhism grew, a more convenient method of carrying these beads was born in the shape of a 27 or 18 bead Mala Bracelet. With this mobile development, even more, people began using and wearing mala beads. At first formed as an accommodating other alternative to the 108 malas, wrist malas have now made their stamp and end up being to a great degree well known in the far eastern locale. Mala bracelets have many names. You may see these called wrist malas, zen bead bracelet, yoga bracelet, Tibetan bracelet, prayer beads bracelet, meditation beads bracelet, Buddhist rosary bracelet, and many other similar variants.

Mala bracelets have grown to become a staple of Buddhist and Tibetan culture due to the conviction that they pass on exceptional power and imperativeness depending upon what's it made of. The consisting gemstone, seed or bead are believed to have individual strengths and properties that aid one to live a balanced life and a healthy lifestyle. From protection, healing, to cleansing and creativity it is believed to bring the wearer a vast variety of benefits. It additionally can be utilized as a gift and blessing to remain balanced, adjusted, humble and grounded as one crosses the capricious way of life. 

It is prescribed that you wear your mala for no less than 40 back to back days to frame a bond with it.  Because mala beads are believed to absorb energy, they need to be regularly cleansed and energized. You can expose your mala to sun or moonlight for a few hours, sprinkle it with holy water, or burn incense or sage near your mala.

Learning to meditate

Learning to meditate can bring a sense of calm and inner satisfaction. The practice of meditation is a gateway into your inner consciousness, resulting in an enhanced awareness of your own existence and your overall relationship to the cosmos.

Whether you are looking to answer the age-old question, "Who am I and why am I here?" or simply to implement simple relaxation techniques meditation may just be the answer for you. Although there are hundreds of established techniques how to meditate is really up to the individual. You can pick and choose amongst different schools of thought and find a technique that best suits your personality. However, although meditation has many different cultural contexts, there are certain general facets which transcend the bounds of any one specific culture. According to Eastern philosophy, to meditate means to think on the eternal, or rather to expand your consciousness until you are at one with the cosmos as a whole. Transcendental emotions like grief, euphoria or even love can fade away, but the universe is forever. Eventually, with practice, learning to meditate can bring you in closer attunement with the very root and purpose of existence itself.

Even if you are not interested in the metaphysical implications of meditation, meditating has undeniable health benefits. Learning to meditate can have positive effects on stress induced illness such as heart disease and high blood pressure. In conjunction with traditional Western approaches to medicine, meditation can target the root causes behind stress-based conditions by calming and clearing the mind.

There are many relaxation techniques meditation incorporates. You can meditate sitting, standing or lying down, in a chair or on the floor. Learning how to meditate is not difficult. There are numerous programs online that can teach you the basics and help to get you started. These programs can guide you each step of the meditation process, provide tips on appropriate posture and teach you how to create the ideal setting for your meditation session.

Classic sitting meditation is one approach. All you need to do is sit on the floor in a comfortable position in a bright but quiet room. The purpose of meditation is not to fall asleep, but to relax and let go of everyday stress. As you become more skilled, you will begin to experience a greater sense of clarity and self observation. Next, breathe deeply and find a focal point or image to hold in your mind. This action will clear the mind and any lingering anxiety or worry.

With commitment and dedication, the calm and peacefulness that you experience upon learning to meditate will carry over to your everyday actions. More quickly than you can imagine, you will come to crave the sense of cleansing and tranquility that meditation can impart. Once you begin the practice, meditation will quickly become an intrinsic part of your daily routine.

The Power and Use of Rudraksha Mala Beads

Rudraksha seeds come from the Rudraksha tree that only grows in specific climates primarily in south east Asia. This seed has been used for hundreds of years in mala prayer beads in India, primarily due to the natural hole found in it's center. There is much Folk lore around the Rudraksha bead and it is known to have many different spiritual and potent healing properties. The Hindu iconography often shows Shiva wearing Rudraksha mala beads. That’s why in India, especially among Shivaities, there is a long tradition of wearing Rudraksha beads by men – due to Lord Shiva who is a male God.

How to wear a rudraksha mala?

Rudraksha beads are usually strung together and called as rudraksha mala. The rudraksha mala contains 108 beads plus one extra bead (called the guru or meru bead). 108 is a sacred number in Hinduism and also a the number of repetition in reciting a mantra in the japa meditation practice. 

How to care for rudraksha mala? What are the precautions for using/wearing?

Before you wear your rudraksha mala for the very first time, you must do this following simple procedure to energized and sanctified the rudraksha mala:
1. Do it in Monday which is Lord Shiva’s day
2. Wash rudraksha mala with pure milk and water. Make sure the water is not warm or boiled.
3. Put the sandalwood paste on it
4. Offer some flowers and incense to it
5. Chant the short mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” for 108 times
6. Chant the specific mantra of the mukhis for at least nine times
You can wear the rudraksha mala after the procedure above is done. To care for Rudraksha mala, you must protect it from any physical harm. You also don’t allow someone touch it because you’ll never know if the person carrying some negative energy.
Keep in mind that you must wash and clean your rudraksha mala regularly with soapy water (don’t use chemical soap). After you wash it, let it dry under the air and put a mixture of olive oil and sandalwood oil in each of every bead.

How to tell if rudraksha is genuine?

To know if the rudraksha is whether genuine or fake, do this following test before you buy it:
1. Water test. Put the rudraksha beads in boiling water for about 20-30 minutes. You’ll notice a sharp discolouration if it’s fake.
2. Copper Coin Test. It’s the most reliable test to tell if rudraksha is genuine or not. Simply place the rudraksha between two copper coins. You’ll know it’s genuine if the rudraksha is rotating either towards the right or the left.
3. Eye Test. There is some fake rudraksha seller who carves the beads with some pattern like the serpent, Trishul, lingam, etc. In fact, the real rudraksha doesn’t have such marking. So if you found one with a mark, then it could be the fake rudraksha.

Chanting with rudraksha beads

Check out the video below to see the traditional way to chant mantras using rudraksha mala beads.



Top Five Healing Gemstone Mala Beads

Crystals and gemstones are used by thousands of people for their many different healing energies. These stones originated from the Earth and contain various combinations of elements. When they come in contact with your body, you will naturally connect with the gemstone's healing energy. One of the most powerful ways to harness the healing energy of crystals is to use and wear mala beads. Malas are similar to a rosary but are used by Buddhists and yogis to count Sanskrit mantras. Below are the top five most potent gemstone mala beads to explore using for healing the body, mind and heart.

Crystal Healer: Turquoise Mala Beads
Turquoise is said to be a master healer and is also a stone of communication which helps you identify and discuss your feelings across in the purest form. 

Release Negativity: Smoky Quartz Mala Beads
Smoky Quartz allows you let go of all your past negative issues which bring you down. This stone acts as a shield to your positive energy, and releases all sorts of mental blockages.

Stress Reliever: Celestite Mala Beads
Celestite promotes peace and happiness because it relieves you of all kinds of stress. When in contact with the skin, it releases muscle stress and tension promoting relaxation and circulation. 

Heart Healing: Rose Quartz Mala Beads
Rose Quartz summons feelings of love, passion, beauty, and compassion. This heart opening and healing stone encourages not just love for somebody else but encourages love for yourself as well. 

Mind Clearing: Quartz Mala Beads
Quartz cultivates happiness and completeness and promotes good health, cleanses your body and soul and maintains a balance in the overall body. 

Using Rosewood Mala Beads for Mantra Meditation

Prayer beads are fundamental to the life of many Yogis and Hindus in India. Sanskrit mantras are chanted along with the names of personal deities for hours on end, causing one nineteenth-century observer to remark that "the pious Hindu…computes his daily prayers as if they were so many rupees added to his capital stock in the bank of heaven." 

Chanting and meditation have turned out to be one of the most sought-after techniques to provide an individual with inner-peace, calm and tranquility. For mantra meditation, using a string of beads called japa mala is an excellent tool to count Sanskrit mantras. Using mala beads creates additional focus to bring one deeper into the world of meditation.  In the Hindu tradition, Rosewood mala beads are the most popular one amongst those who worship Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity that is known for good luck and removing obstacles. 

The fragrance of rosewood mala beads is light yet powerful which allows chanting to be attractive and engaging. The calming fresh rosewood tree scent has potent healing properties. Rosewood malas activate the heart chakra to promote compassion, devotion, kindness, and benevolence. 

Rosewood malas get quite attractive and prettier as one starts to use it as your skin's oils slowly add a warm luster to the beads. One should be careful not to make it wet as this could bring down the overall look of the japa malas. However, it does not affect its functionality. If the rosewood beads start to dry out, you can lightly rub some sesame oil on them to restore their luster.

There are different ways one can wear rosewood mala beads and this includes a mala bracelet and as a mala necklace. Rosewood is the most commonly used Buddhist prayer beads that help disconnect with stress and anxiety which are the worldly signs and helps connect with serenity and beauty. Rosewood Mala beads can be worn single stranded or double stranded as well. It all depends on what your requirements are and how you want to feel about the whole process.



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