A Mala is a Tibetan prayer necklace of 108 beads. 108 is a sacred number. If you add the individual numbers together (1+0+8), you arrive at the number 9. This is the number of completion.
Malas are often used to count mantras during meditation. A mantra is a repeated word or sound that helps you focus while meditating. To count your mantras during a meditation, drape the Mala over your middle or ring finger (preferably not over your index finger, as it represents the ego). After reciting a mantra, use your thumb to slide one bead through.
The first bead you use in a meditation is always the bead to the left of the mother bead. The whole process of going around the Mala and reaching the mother bead again means 'taking time for reflection'. The Mother Bead usually contains a tassel, string or feather, or is larger than the other beads. That way you can always recognize it!
Outside of meditations, the mala can be worn as jewelry.
Rudraksha beads are red seeds from the blueberries of the elaeocarpus ganitrus tree.
In Hindu mythology, they are associated with the god Shiva and his love for the world. The story goes that during one of his meditations, Shiva became so full of compassion that he started to cry. His tears then fell to the earth, from which a new kind of trees began to grow. He called them rudraksha, after 'Rudra' (a name for Shiva) and 'aksha', eye or tear.
The Rudraksha beads meaning is literally 'tears of Shiva', but on a deeper level the berry shows what can arise from sincere emotion!