Die tiefgründige spirituelle Bedeutung der Malas: Interview mit Rachel Sundtröm von MALATOPIA

21 April 2016 |


Malas sind in den letzten Jahren zum hippen Accessoire der Yogaszene mutiert. Viele Yogis haben nun nicht mehr nur eine Matte unter dem Arm klemmen, sondern auch diese Perlenkette um den Hals baumeln. Daran ist grundsätzlich auch nichts auszusetzen, dennoch ist es spannend die tiefgründige Bedeutung von Malas zu kennen.

Das schöne Schmuckstück lasst sich für die eigene Meditations- und Yogapraxis ganz wunderbar einsetzen.

Ich habe mir von Rachel Sundström ein für mich passendes Mala zusammenstellen lassen. Es ist so wunderschön geworden, dass ich es nicht nur zum Meditieren einsetze, sondern es auch gerne als Schmuckstück und Talismann trage. Die verwendeten Steine sollen ausgleichend, energetisierend und reinigend wirken.

Rachel Sundström lebt in der Nähe von Zürich und ist eine wahre Mala-Expertin, denn sie setzt sich schon lange mit der tieferen Bedeutung der Malas auseinander und knüpft selbst für ihr Label MALATOPIA wunderschöne und individuell passende Malas.

Ich freue mich, euch diese beeindruckend e Yogini und ihre Arbeit hier vorstellen zu dürfen. Das Interview ist auf Grund von Rachels Herkunft auf Englisch.


Rachel, can you please briefly introduce yourself to the IN GOOD HEALTH Community?

I was born in England and grew up on the East Coast of South Africa near the beach.  In my late twenties I moved back to London, England where I met my Swedish husband.  About seventeen years ago I attended my first yoga class when I was expecting my eldest daughter and I fell in love with the practice.  I continued to develop my yoga practice over the years and after the birth of my second daughter decided that yoga had become such a part of my life that I wanted to share it with others.  In 2007 I completed my yoga teachers training in Kerala, India and I have never looked back since. rachel

It was in India that I developed my passion for malas.  I had always found meditation quite challenging and then I learnt about japa meditation during my yoga teachers training. I had an immediate connection to the mala beads and for me it was the perfect tool to develop my seated practice through japa meditation.  I have collected various malas over the years but never quite found what I was looking for so I decided to make one for myself.

This was the first small step to developing MALATOPIA.

You are a full-time yoga teacher and run your own yoga studio close to Zurich.

Yes, it certainly keeps me busy but when you have a job that you love what more could you ask for.  I share the studio, YogaTopia, with my business partner Claire Dalloz who has been teaching for over twenty years.  We make a great team and our goal is to share yoga with all ages and levels of students making yoga accessible to all.


What does your typical day look like? Do you have any kind of routines you try to follow every day?

As much as possible I like to start my day with ten to twenty minutes of pranayama or meditation just to clear my mind and center myself before the day starts.  Sometimes I fit this in before my family wakes up but quite often it occurs once everyone has left for school or work.  On certain days I will teach up to four yoga sessions, a mix of classes and private lessons ranging from Hatha Yoga, Teen Yoga to SUP Yoga (Stand Up Paddle). I teach most mornings during the week and if I am not teaching I enjoy a long walk in the fields and forests in Herrliberg.  The view is spectacular and seeing the lake makes me feel calm and serene. Sometimes I’ll take a mala with me, find a quiet spot under a tree and practice japa meditation.  Even though I have been living in Switzerland for the last eight years I still have to pinch myself as a reminder of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such beauty. I make time during the day for my own yoga practice in between teaching, running the studio, making malas and family life. Depending on my teaching schedule I reserve at least one day for designing and making malas.

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Besides being a yoga teacher you are also the founder of MALATOPIA – producing beautiful, unique handmade malas in Switzerland. Can you explain to us what exactly a mala is?

Originally from India some 3000 years ago, malas have roots in Hinduism, Buddhism and yoga.  The word mala in Sanskrit means meditation garland or more commonly referred to as a strand of beads or prayer beads, which are traditionally used for counting mantras during meditation. The practice of repeating a mantra as you count each bead is japa meditation. Malas can consist of 108, 54, 27 or 18 beads plus a guru bead. Wrist malas can include 27 or 21 beads plus a guru bead. There are many different interpretations of why the number 108 has been used. 108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Traditionally a mala comes as a string of 108 beads plus one for the guru bead, around which the other 108 beads turn like the planets around the sun.

Some other interesting theories:

  • There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.
  • There are said to be 108 Indian goddess names.
  • 1, 0, and 8 – some say that 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
  • The average distance of the Moon from the Earth is 108 times the diameter of the Moon.

Often Malas are seen as some kind of hip jewelry the Yoga community is wearing as a fashion piece but actually mala beads have been used for centuries in India for meditation and holy ceremonies.

Traditionally malas are worn inside clothing against the skin and are not displayed. This is to absorb the healing properties of the mala and to protect the mala from unwanted negative energy.  Lately malas have become quite trendy and are worn outside of clothing or as a piece of jewellery.  In some ways this can be seen as a way of expressing our devotion to the practice of yoga or meditation or as a reminder of our spiritual path and personal intentions.  Treat a mala with care and respect and it will serve you well on your journey through life.

How can mala beads be used for a daily meditation routine?

Designate some time in your day, usually early morning is best but whenever you can.  Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, take time to tune into your breath and align your spine.  Generally the mala is used with a mantra. Mantras which you may have heard before are „Om“ or „Om Mani padme hum“.  The sound „Om“ pronounced „A-U-M“, is a sacred sound, which represents the creative energy of the universe.  Mantras are words or sounds repeated during mediation to focus the thoughts while allowing the mind to become quiet.  If you do not have a mantra you can chant OM either silently or out loud. Hold the mala over the middle and index fingers of your right hand in front of your heart centre.  The rest of the mala can be gently cupped with the left hand in front of the navel.  Starting at the guru bead, use your thumb to connect to each bead, pulling it towards your heart as you repeat your mantra.  The index finger is gently extended away as this is referred to as the Ego and ideally one should set the Ego aside during meditation.  If you would like to practice another round of 108, without passing over the guru bead, turn the mala around and start again.  One can also focus on the breath while moving over each bead.  If you are working through any challenges in life or particular emotions you may wish to focus your meditation for example on acceptance, forgiveness or developing loving kindness towards yourself and others.  If you continue with this practice over time you will notice a shift in your energy, mental clarity and hopefully meditation will offer you a different perspective on your life.

You use different materials and a great variety of gemstones. Do they all have a different meaning or effect?

I use mainly sandalwood, rudraksha and gemstones with accents of sterling silver or gold vermeil and they all have different meanings and healing properties.  Sandalwood is considered a good all round wood for aiding meditation, it calms and soothes the mind. Rudraksha is considered to embody the divine power of Shiva and Shakti.

For example the mala that I have created for you includes Labradorite and Grey Agate.

Labradorite: a stone of intuition

Labradorite a is thought to enhance mental abilities while promoting creativity and imagination

Grey Agate: a grounding stone

Agate helps to balance the emotional, physical and intellectual self and builds both self-awareness and self-confidence.

Summer Malas

How is a mala made? Can you briefly explain the process? Can anybody make a mala by herself/himself?

I make a mala completely intuitively.  As I am a very visual person I take inspiration from things I see around me in nature, whilst traveling or wherever I am.

Personally I prefer malas that are knotted in between each bead as I find this easier during meditation.  The knots symbolize the divine link between all beings in the universe strung together on one universal thread in a circular pattern.  This represents the cycle of the universe, without a beginning or an end, the constant cycle of birth and death.  As the 109th bead or guru bead is separate from the main mala (i.e. The Universe) this represents the Universal Self as a force beyond the universe.  The tassel symbolizes the fourth state called Turiya, which is beyond the states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.

I will often listen to mantras or repeat a mantra while I am stringing and knotting the beads to infuse the malas with good intentions and positive energy. After the mala is completed I then look up what each gemstone means, this assists me in choosing a name for the mala and creating the description for the information card. Each mala is truly a unique creation.

Anyone can make a mala and in fact I also offer creative mala workshops teaching people how to design and create their own mala.

I sometimes read about the strong power of Malas and their healing qualities. What is your opinion on that?

I absolutely agree.  Allow your heart and mind to be open when choosing or making a mala.  Semi-precious stones and healing crystals have a wonderful way of choosing you.  When a mala breaks it generally means you have broken a cycle, worked through some karma or that it is time to change your intentions or direction in life.  While of course you can repair it but take the opportunity to reflect, change and continue to grow.

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What inspires you on and off the yoga mat?

Seeing how the practice of yoga can literally transform someone’s life, this still amazes me and gives me the inspiration I need to continue to guide students along their path. Perseverance, determination, inner strength – no matter how hard life can be sometimes and how many challenges life throws at you, knowing that everything will work out the way it is meant to.

What is your favourite…


„Om Sri Maha Lakshmyai Namaha“ Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth, prosperity and fortune, in both the spiritual and material realms.  Lakshmi’s four hands represent the four goals of our human existence, dharma, karma, artha and moksha.  She is also the wife of Lord Vishnu.  I chose this mantra when I received my first mala in India and it is this mantra that I use during japa meditation.


„The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships“ T.K.V. Desikachar


A book I read over twenty years ago called The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield had a profound impact on my life at that moment in time.  I have read it again on numerous occasions and have given the book as a gift to many important people in my life.  Just a story but it touched my soul.


Indian and Thai food, hot and spicy!

Hier findest du mehr Informationen über Rachel und ihre Malas:





Instagram: malatopiazurich


in good health, janna