Your heart is a mirror, and so too, needs to be polished regularly. It wasn’t until I met my yoga community – my chosen family – that everything began to shift in my life. I had never experienced such love and familiarity among my peers. I had never been in a group that reflected back so clearly the divinity they saw in me.
I believe we all experience moments in our life where we feel completely connected; where we feel held and supported by something bigger than us; where we perceive a power and oneness that upholds all. More often though, we feel separate and different from one another. This experience of differentiation is the result of illusion, or Maya. Maya has three ways in which it operates, called The Three Malas.
The Three Malas is a special teaching which originated from Kashmir Shaivism, a major branch of Hinduism. Unlike mala (garland) beads, the word mala refers to dirt, impurity, or stain in tantric yoga scripture. The malas are aspects of consciousness that act as cloaks or veils that prevent us from seeing and experiencing our true Self.
Anava Mala – (connected to the heart) is associated with feelings of insecurity and sadness. The veil of low self-esteem and the source of incompleteness we experience. This mala creates limited capacity to recognize the divine within.
My teacher, Amy Ippoliti, describes Anava Mala as the cloak of self-obsession. She refers to the girl with the eating disorder looking into the mirror and not seeing how emaciated she is. I can relate. It was this specific teaching that allowed me to heal.
Mayiya Mala – (connected to the mind) is associated with feelings of jealousy and anger. The veil of comparison and the feeling of not enough. This mala creates the perception of difference, a separateness between us and the world.
My teacher describes Mayiya Mala as the cloak of too much object, of worrying what everyone else thinks of you. For years my life appeared to be perfect on the outside, I appeared to be perfect, but on the inside, I was breaking down and trying to escape.
Karma Mala – (connected to the body) is associated with feelings of worry and fear. The veil of feeling like one’s accomplishments are one’s true worth. This mala creates limited capacity for activity, resulting in the inability to act.
My teacher describes Karma Mala as the cloak of helplessness; it is the head-in-the-sand approach to life. Once again, I can relate – I spent my first few years of teaching calling in sick and hiding in bed with Netflix.
These malas are part of our existence, part of human nature. Yoga can teach us to become observant when these malas arise. We can learn to cultivate the power of discernment to help us see that even though we feel a certain way, it is not who we are. With this increased awareness, we are able to look past the malas and we are able to see ourselves as we truly are: Pure Consciousness.
From the tantric yoga perspective, these malas are a gift. Every time we forget who we are, we have the pleasure of remembering. The key is to be vulnerable, to be seen, and to ask for help. So the question that my musing begets: do you recognize the divine within? I am here to help you remove all the unnecessary cloaks, so you may revel in your greatness.
May this practice always be of benefit.