The spirit of the Global Mala is to encourage as many people to participate in a collective ritual by bringing hatha, bhakti, jnana and karma yoga together.
There are many approaches to leading a Yoga Mala, 108 Sun Salutations, and some yogis and yoginis will go through all without a break. Some new Western approaches open to a Yoga Mala like a marathon, receiving donations for how many salutations they do.
A Yoga Mala is a minimum of two hours best at 2.5 or 3 hours so there is time to introduce the mala and time for a long savasana and the addition of meditation and kirtan.
Step One: Create a sacred space.
Decide if you are doing a mala in a circle with an altar in the center (as simple as candles, fruits and flowers or of your own choice) or with everyone facing forward. The circle empowers the community and is symbolic of a mala but not all spaces lend themselves to a circle.
Step Two: Placing the Mats.
If you are doing a mala in the round, place a few mats as guidelines as people enter. The mats radiate from the center like rays of the sun.
Step Three: Preparation - Counters and Music
You can create two bowls to count from if you are leading the mala and moving with participants. Bowl One with 27 seeds, beads, beans - Bowl Two - Empty. Every time you go into a forward bend put one seed into the empty bowl. This way you will not lose your count.
Step Four: Intro to the Yoga Mala - 10-15 minutes
Start by unifying the group with OM or an invocation chant to introduce your yoga mala-global mala and your intention.
Some communities may want to have a talking circle which everyone speaks taking a bit longer, but can be done with everyone making one-word dedications.
Introduce the form:
I work with Surya Namaskar A, from Krishnamacharya's sequence and Ashtanga, that can be modified for all levels.
Surya Namaskar – flows, but downward dog is not held for 5 breaths, only a full inhale and exhale. You will need to guide the first 3-5 with the 4-5th round having the least instruction. Remind people of the power of moving together and to not get ahead or behind one another. Listen and try to step forward together. This is the part that takes some communication as the first time leader "just say step forward" until people find the rhythm - you are the rhythm maker so breathe slowly.
Always step forward and back - jumping is too intensive for most people for 108 rounds
Always give people permission to rest in child's pose, to prayer in a seated position, if there is kirtan accompanying your mala, they can chant along.
The Most Important Modifications:
1) Bent knees in forward bends (there are 216 forward bends in a 108 mala)
2) Bent knee chaturanga, knees chest chaturanga, or even cat's breath
3) Cobra or cat's breath instead of updog
4) Bent knee downward dog or child's pose
I have lead Yoga Malas many times over 12 years. If people listen to their bodies and feel this as a moving prayer, they will be empowered by the whole process.
Dedications - There are four rounds
Dedications are made at the top of each Sun Salutation. You can create a pause in the beginning but believe it or not one's heart begins to teach you in the flow. As you make the dedication at the beginning of each salutation, meditate, move, breathe and circulate that prayer through the whole round.
The Ritual Begins:
Round One: Dedications for Personal Transformation and Realization. This round is for all of one's prayer for your personal activation, healing, fertilization and manifestation of the potency of one's life. Self-realization and actualization. No prayer is to earthy or heavenly. If your car is broken down and unsafe or a gas guzzler, you may need a round in dedication to a hybrid car. Typically, the prayers are for healing qualities: compassion, love, creativity and the specific areas and projects that are part of the transformative fabric of one's life.
Round Two: Dedications for Family, Friends and Precious Jewels (anyone you have unresolved conflict with)
Round Three: Dedications for the World – The Bodhisattva round where we pray for what we care about and are active in transforming from war, global warming, children with AIDS, to your local needs. A very powerful round.
Round Four: Dedications to the Source – The conversation between you and God, the praise, gratitude and joy.
You can finish the last 3, 5 or 8 rounds in Surya Namaskar B if you like with celebratory music.
Last Round: Shavasana and Meditation and reading of Sacred Texts or Poetry.
Swaha! Om Shanti Shanti Shanti...bathe in the radiance and empowerment of your community or personal Yoga Mala.
Love All Ways,
Catalyst, Global Mala Project