The practice of reciting, chanting or mentally repeating a mantra is used as a form of meditation. Sitting in a comfortable position, with the eyes closed, the mantra is repeated. The mind is focused on the mantra, the thoughts are let go of and the breath is slow and deep. This practice is known in Sanskrit as japa. To help you concentrate while reciting, malas are used. A mala is a set of beads which usually contains 108 beads. The mala is used for keeping count of the number of mantras chanted. For each mantra chanted you let rotate one bead using the middle finger and thumb of the right hand (see picture above). The index finger should point opposite to you. The beads should rotate towards you. You start with the first bead after the sumeru (the knot or thicker bead of the mala) and rotate until you reach the sumeru again. Don’t cross the sumeru but turn the mala around and start backwards. Using the mala in this way will help you to focus on the mantra itself instead of worrying about the number of mantras chanted. The mala can be made of different materials according to the purpose of the mantras used. Shaivites traditionally count on rudraksha beads, whereas Vishnavites us beads made from the stems of the tulsi plant. Some beads can be used for all purposes and all kinds of mantras ( for different types of malas see http://thepujashop.com/index.php/puja-items/for-prayer.html). Be careful in selecting the mantra to recite. Be clear on what your intention is and use your intuition above your intellect to see if the mantra works for you. As explained above the mantra chosen has its implications for the mala to be used. Crystal malas (see picture below) can be used on many occasions. They are especially suitable for giving protection and good energy.