We feel incredibly lucky to welcome back Chant Malas as a sponsor of Brighton Yoga Festival for the second year running. Founder Helen Forester tells us what she’s looking forward to this year, as well as letting us in on some new additions to her offering, coming soon.
Tell us a little more about Chant Malas…
Chant is a company with love at its heart. Everything I create, the beads, the guided meditations, my workshops, is done with a deep love of and reverence for the power of mala beads and mantra meditation. My aim with Chant is to always keep that in mind – to serve my customers by creating heartfelt, high quality beads and giving them the information they need to get started (or re-inspired!) on their meditation journey. All beads are made by one person and collections cover an eco collection that gives back to a number of UK and India-based charities doing incredible work, a collection inspired by Goddesses of the world and yogic teaching and traditions amongst others.
Chant has been working with the charity Ashadeep for just over three years now. Ashadeep is a mental health charity in Guwahati, India, who provide safety, paid employment, accommodation and food to people who have been made homeless, for whatever reason, due to mental health issues or learning difficulties. I collaborate with a group of the women at the home who create the most beautiful hand-woven textiles – they create all bags that house Chant beads as well as prayer shawls, meditation cushions and more, which all be available a little later this year. Ashadeep is doing incredible work for their community and it’s a complete honour to be able to support their work by buying directly from the Craftswomen there.
How did you get into making mala beads?
I began creating beads when I was nearing my due date with my first child. I had been using my own set of beads in my meditation practice for a few years and started to feel a little ‘tug’ towards creating a set of my own. I still have that first set of beads and they sit pride of place in my workspace. I’m self-taught and have spent many, many hours experimenting with different techniques, making tonnes of mistakes and learning all I can from my teacher and books about the practice. The more I learn the more I love this practice! I’m now a qualified meditation teacher and can’t imagine my life without it.
What were your main aims when you began? And have these changed?
I had two main aims. Firstly, I wanted to create mala beads that were accessibly-priced as I often found myself ‘priced out’ of buying a new set here in the UK. This aim still stands strong and now I’m grateful to be able to branch out a more with my designs to incorporate the higher budgets too. My prices start from £18 and I’m committed to creating pieces that cover all budgets and frequently work with customers to create bespoke pieces that fit whatever budget they are working with.
Secondly, I felt that there was too much of a focus on the ‘fashion element’ of mala beads in the way that they were marketed online and so wanted to create pieces that honoured the practice of japa meditation and its origins whilst catering to a western audience. Yoga as a whole is an internal practice so I felt (and still feel!) it was crucial to always put this first, taking our attention away from how something looked and towards how it felt to use and wear.
What’s the most rewarding thing about what you do?
There are so many things! I think the main thing though is getting to work with a wide variety of people from all backgrounds. Whether its conversing with website customers, collaborating with clients on custom pieces, working with companies creating bespoke collections, guiding workshop participants through the design and creation of their own pieces, or working with the women of Ashadeep, Chant means that I get to connect with some truly incredible souls and I feel grateful every day that I get to call this my job.
What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Being of service is the most important part of running a business. If you keep that at the heart of everything you do, everything else will follow.
It’s ok to be a joyful company of one.
You don’t have to have a big social media following to have a thriving business.
Customer service and word-of-mouth is everything.
How long have you been involved with Brighton Yoga Festival? And what are you most excited about at this year’s event?
This will be my fourth year at the festival and I’m so excited that it’ll be my second as a sponsor. I’m excited about having my little stall again, meeting lots of new faces and re-connecting with some familiar ones and getting to run some classes while I’m there!
What does the festival’s theme “yoga for everyone” mean to you?
It means everything and to me is the very essence of yoga. Everybody has the state of yoga within them so the idea that yoga classes and events (which are just ways of helping us to find this state) wouldn’t be accessible to everyone is something I’ve never been able to wrap my head around. If we all worked towards making yoga classes and events more accessible, in practical ways, as the BYF do, imagine what our world could be!
What’s next for Chant Malas?
I have some new collections coming in the autumn as well as more Ashadeep textiles that I can’t wait for everyone to see! I’ll also be launching a new meditation-only website and will be taking on one-to-one clients, guiding them into a consistent meditation practice and being, I hope, a mentor and ‘meditation cheerleader’ for them.
How can we find out more about you?
You can go to my website www.chantmalas.co.uk where you can also sign up for my newsletter that comes out every full moon, or I’m often to be found on my Instagram or on Facebook. I also post new guided meditations every couple of weeks on my SoundCloud page as a way of supporting people in their meditation journey – especially if they’re new to it!
Tell us a secret
I think people should stop climbing Everest. She needs a rest.