Malas: The New Yoga Status Symbol


Creative Commons License photo credit: Sharif Sharifi

Whether you’re male, or female fashion is a great way to express creativity, and personality on a daily basis.

While I love bringing a sense of style into my yoga practice, I am not so sure how I feel about bringing yoga into my style. 

I have noticed an increasing amount of individuals sporting malas through out studios and community events, and I wonder if they are being worn as a symbol of devotion or merely as a fashion statement.  While searching the yogasphere I came across a mock ad on Yoga Dawg that poked fun at how sacred objects are often commercialized and treated by “western yogis” as trendy accessories rather than worn for their intended spiritual purpose.

The YogaDawg Sadhu Fall Collection

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Vedic Face Paint
Lotus Joy Premium Yoga Club
Mellow Yellow Chakra Yoga Shirt
Holy Moly Far Out Yoga Bead Set
Mellow Yellow Chakra Yoga Pants

While it is common in the Hindu religion to wear malas around the neck, it is typically used to practice devotion towards a deity. Malas are used to express one’s respect and service to that god, and it’s considered disrespectful to wear the beads flippantly or without intention. Devotees are expected to be disciplined in spiritual practices that are deserving of the malas and the blessings they come with.

For example, many people wear the rudraksha mala in observance of the Lord Shiva. Devotees take certain measures that show respect, including the use of rituals and prayers to purify the beads, and they remove the beads when consuming alcohol, attending a funeral, having sex, and for women during menstruation.

I know very few yogis in the United States who take the same precautions when adorning themselves with malas. Most of us aren’t even aware that such precautions exist.

Malas increasingly seem to be a status symbol — a means to appear more “yogic.”

Tibetan Woman
Creative Commons License photo credit: AnnieGreenSprings

Does the tradition matter?  Is it really harming anyone to take a so called sacred object and wear it without observing a spiritual practice? I don’t think Shiva will come to your door with his trident handy, for not acting in accordance to the tradition, but I do wonder if it may have more subtle consequences.

If our intentions are centered around appearing virtuous, spiritual, or yogic with no supporting actions, consider the message are we sending practicing Hindus. When we wear these objects as little more than jewelry, are we showing respect to those who have so kindly shared their spiritual practice with us?

Do we disrespect others’ belief systems when we wear “sacred” objects like malas with blatant disregard for their spiritual significance?

 

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- who has written 21 posts on Yoga Modern.

Patience Steltzer is the Assistant Editor for the World Affairs Current at Yoga Modern. She spends her time drawing, painting, sewing, writing, and practicing/teaching yoga in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. After a lifetime of having no idea what to do with her creativity and energy, she discovered yoga allowed her to find the beauty and excitement in stillness. Since then, she has dedicated herself to sharing her love of yoga with others to help them find the joy she has.

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