A simple pratayahara and dharana practice

Prosperity Mala from Tiny Devotions

This week's National Yoga Month topics for "YIOM are pratayahara and dharana.  What what?  I'd venture to say that of the eight limbs of yoga, these are probably given the least amount of consideration by your average asana practitioner, this yogini included.  That's unfortunate, because pratayahara (withdrawing of the senses) and dharana (concentration) are a sweet pair.  Together, they can be used as simple and effective meditation technique.

Recently I gave myself this Prosperity Mala by Tiny Devotions.  I wanted a reminder for myself to cultivate a positive attitude as I work towards my dreams for myself as yoga teacher and bellydancer.  I love wearing it because it is both beautiful and uplifting, but it is also a wonderful tool for meditation.

I like to keep it simple.  I find a quiet place to sit (if possible!) and close my eyes (pratayahara), and hold my mala in one hand, starting with one of the beads closest to the aventurine guru stone.  After each exhale, I move on to the next bead.  Observing the breath and the feel of the beads in my hands (dharana) gives me something to focus on that is not the crazy soup of thoughts swirling in my head.  It's especially helpful if I'm keyed up and feeling impatient, because it forces me to slow down.  By the time I've made it through all 108 beads, I am usually feeling calmer and more centered, and from there I can either slip into a deeper meditation practice, or go on with the rest of my day in a much better state of mind.

Do you have a mala you love?  How does it help your meditation practice?