Fending off the Malas – Day 1

It’s great to be doing another week-long intensive!  This time we’re focusing on the “malas,” and I’ll be compiling resources for you here throughout the week, so stay tuned.

This morning I defined “mala” as a layer of dust or a cloak over the brightness of your heart.  Mala is a Sanskrit word, so different translators have chosen different English words to represent this concept to us.  Here’s a site that compiles a bunch of different definitions:









It’s important to remember that in Tantric philosophy, the school of thought upon which Anusara Yoga rests, your heart – and you – are inherently good.  Divine consciousness has chosen to limit itself by becoming you so that it can experience itself and the world.  In becoming you, it became more limited in scope – it has a height, a shoe size, and a hair color, for instance.  And while being in a limited body does not make you any less divine, it sure does make you more susceptible to forgetting your divine nature!  It turns out that forgetting your true, inherently good essence is just part of the deal when you are a human being.  We do it all the time.  And then we get to remember that we’re perfect and amazing, and when that happens, we feel good.

If you are a spark of divinity the, your heart is the center of that spark.  Some people like to envision this center as a diamond, or a mirror, or an orb of light.  Following this metaphor, you can see the malas as a layer of unwanted dust, smoke – “gunk,” even – that covers up your diamond, your mirror, your bright glow.  How does it get there?  Life.  Yep, it’s part of the embodiment package!  The malas just happen (that could be a good bumper sticker, eh?).


You can minimize the amount of pain and suffering these cloaks cause you by simply being aware of them.  Learning about them, defining them – these are good starting points for fending them off.  To that end, we’re going to examine the three of them in more detail over the course of the next week.

The first one, which we discussed this morning, is called “anava mala.”  Defined as the “impurity of smallness,” it is the mala of ignorance. You forget that you are part of something greater, that you are divine, and as a result, you feel unworthy.  Anytime you think you aren’t good enough, that you don’t deserve to be happy, or that you don’t deserve the resources you need to live in the world you are experiencing anava mala.

How do you get over this?  Well, you could try to remember that you are “purna” – perfect, in the sense of “not lacking.”  Which you are!  But remembering that isn’t so easy.  What helps you to remember? Well, doing yoga, of course (thank goodness!).  In this blogpost, Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor Amy Ippoliti calls yoga “the swiffer for the heart” – the tool that cleans that dust right off of there:


I like that image a lot!  Yoga is a self-care practice that we know works.  Other self-care practices help fend off anava mala as well.  If you are in fact divine, you deserve to be treated like a king or queen – or better yet – the god or goddess that you are!  That means the food that goes into your system is full of nutrients, the breath you breathe is rich with life, and the sights you take in are resplendent with beauty. Is that always the case?  Probably not…especially at this time of year, right?  Suppose you are feeling lacking, unworthy.  What would happen if you treated yourself like a god or goddess anyway?  Perhaps the feeling of worthiness would flow from your self-care practices.  As we all know, you show up on your mat, you do the yoga, and most of the time, the remembrance comes.  And when it doesn’t, you fake it until you make it, and you do get there by the time savasana rolls around.  That’s the point after all…

Hearts descend in savasana at a Teacher Training in Bogotá, Colombia


Here’s a great blogpost I stumbled across last night that illustrates how your own struggles with anava mala can affect others as well.  Thanks to Lia for sharing her experience.  It’s great food for thought, in case you were planning on leaving that “swiffer” in the closet today!





More tomorrow, on the next mala….


~ by bridgetannlyons on December 12, 2011.

2 Responses to “Fending off the Malas – Day 1”

  1. Very nice, thanks for sharing. Reminded me of the saying: “We cannot practice yoga – yoga is our natural state”. Sadly, sometimes we tend to forget and need to find access to this natural state again…

    • It is sad that we forget….but then again, I think we have to, right? It’s part of being in a limited body and getting to experience this world. So I figure it’s okay and then I don’t beat myself up as much for forgetting! That’s been helpful to me. And then as everyone always says, you get to remember, and there sweetness in that. It’s the spanda of remembrance and forgetting, and the dance is part of the gig I suppose. The “natural state” sure feels better though. I like that quote a lot!

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