Culture The Power of Malas: An Interview with Mojee Yatra Mojee Shokri creates malas with intention By Kara Fujita Jovic Yoga creates openness and space in our bodies. It quiets our busy minds, creating a sense of stillness that allows what we need to be conscious of to rise to the surface. A regular meditation practice can help cultivate this awareness, and using malas or japa malas (prayer beads) can bring greater consciousness to our practice through use of intention, chanting, and simply feeling the beads gliding effortlessly through our fingers. Malas have been used for centuries in India and were often made from rudraksha or tulsi seeds. With the popularity of yoga, they’ve evolved into jewellery and are often made with semi-precious stones and crystals that hold even greater meaning and energy, depending on the needs or intentions of the wearer. You can find commercialized versions of malas as jewellery, but if your intention is to honor their meaning and power, ideally you would find malas that are consciously made at temples or through artisans who understand their sacredness. I spoke with Mojee Shokri, creator of Mojee Yatra, about the power of malas and how her creation process keeps alive the reverence and deeper meaning of this ancient tradition. Dressing for the Divine “Mala is a ring of prayers. It’s a manifestation of an intention somewhere deep inside to improve ourselves. They’re a fantastic way to heal, focus, and center yourself—it’s a form of meditation,” Mojee explains. “They’re typically made with sacred numbers of 9, 18, 27, 54, or 108 beads and are used to do japa. Japa means repetition of mantra or holy names. The purpose of the mala is to focus your mind in three ways: 1) The mantra, 2) the sensation of the fingers, and 3) the intention.” Originally a high-end jewellery designer, Mojee discovered yoga in 1995 in her native home of Iran. When she moved to the U.S. in 2001, she continued her practice, focusing on Hatha and Kundalini yoga. “After I started to teach yoga, I shifted to a more conscious way of making jewellery, making sure that in every piece I create, there’s a purpose and intention in the creation process,” Mojee says. The Journey Mojee’s understanding of meditation and malas deepened, ironically, when all of her plans seemed to fall apart. She was booked and looking forward to a trip to India on a Hare Krishna consciousness tour when she spoke with her spiritual teacher and he advised her not to take the trip. She was upset and disappointed, but she continued her yoga and meditation practice. She found that every night during meditation, over and over again, a scene in Bali would come up. She would see the temples and streets of Bali. “This mysterious energy would keep pulling me to that island even though I had never even been to Bali,” she says. After her experience meditating, Mojee spoke again with her teacher, who said that Bali was where her journey would take her. Within a matter of weeks, Mojee followed her intuition, cancelled her trip to India, and, backpack in hand, left for Bali. “It was that quick,” she says. It was in Bali that Mojee’s meditation practice and use of malas deepened and she was inspired to create Mojee Yatra. “Yatra means journey, and the name for my mala designs came from that. It came from the journey that I was supposed to take to India that was replaced with Bali,” she says. “Imagination is very important. It will take you everywhere and there are no limitations.” The Magic of Intention Mojee usually creates her malas at night after her meditation practice because she finds that the peacefulness of night is a sacred time for creating. “Every stone is washed with holy water and blessed by monks,” she explains, “then before the actual mala creation takes place, I chant over the stones to ensure clarity and healing intention is given to every design.” And because wearing a mala is so personal, Mojee says she never designs the same mala twice. “Every one of the pieces I design is one-of a-kind. I don’t replicate the design because each person is unique. That was always my mantra, to let the piece of jewellery that you wear represent you. Especially now, when my clients write me about their hopes or needs, colors, chakras, or energy, that mala really represents who they are and what they want in their life,” she says. Through conscious creation and mindful use, malas, like yoga, can create a meditative state of happiness and calm that helps bridge the gap between our core needs and our most sacred intentions. Mojee Yatra and Elena Brower are collaborating on The 27 Malas Collection with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Institution for Higher Understanding. This spring, Mojee is once again returning to Bali to host an intimate and sacred yoga retreat. Photos courtesy of Mojee Yatra. — Kara Fujita Jovic believes in the power of the breath to center the soul, that love is a super power—for it always speaks the loudest—and that dancing in the kitchen while singing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” may just infuse a meal with magical powers. When she’s not getting caffeinated on fresh air, sunshine, or the sea, you can find her creating, exploring, writing, and helping people find their own personal om.