Mala Beads (or Buddhist Prayer Beads) date back to as early as 8th century BCE. They are used during meditation to help focus your awareness and to keep count of your mantras or breath.
Mala beads are made with 108 beads. 108 is considered a sacred number with several different meanings. Most Mala beads are made with 18, 27, 54, or 108 beads. They are treated as sacred objects. They are even believed to have inspired the Catholic Rosary Beads as the tradition of Mala beads spread across Europe.
To use Mala beads first start in a comfortable seat and quiet your mind. Choose your mantra for this meditation (ex: I Am Strong); this is what you will be speaking with each bead. Your mantra can be spoken or repeated in your mind.
Starting at the Guru bead (above the tassel), use your thumb and finger to count each bead pulling towards you. Say your mantra as you reach each bead. Once you go all the way around back to the Guru bead, do not cross it. Instead, reverse your direction and continue with your meditation. It is considered disrespectful to cross over the Guru bead. Continue this process for as long as you need.