Mala means “garland” in Sanskrit. Malas have been used for thousands of years as a meditation and prayer tool by members of Dharmic religions and other spiritual followers. Stretchy wrist malas are often worn as a reminder to practice mantra at all times. Wearing a mala bracelet or necklace is especially convenient for a person who is ill and would like to recite mantra in bed; the mala beads are always right there on their body. Many spiritual people wear malas as a continuous reminder to be mindful.
Malas traditionally consist of 108 beads plus 1 guru bead. 108 is considered a holy number in Dharmic belief and symbolizes spiritual wholeness. The guru bead is not counted in the 108 because it only functions to signify the end/ beginning of a prayer cycle while using the mala. It is also common to find mala with fewer beads, such as necklaces and bracelets. These will usually have 54 (1/2 of 108) or 27 (1/4 of 108) beads, but mala with other factors of 108 can be found as well. All malas, regardless of number of beads, may still be used for mantra practice.