The word, rudraksha, is derived from the Sanskrit roots rudra, which is another name for the Hindu god, Shiva, and aksha, which means "eyes." This can be translated to mean "Rudra's teardrops." Legend says that Shiva shed a tear when he opened his eyes after a long meditation and this tear evolved into a rudaksha tree. It is strongly believed that wearing rudraksha beads provides the guardianship of Shiva and works as a shield against negative energies.
There are different types of rudraksha seeds, varying in the number of grooves (faces) on the surface. The most common and reportedly the safest type is the one with five faces, also called a panchmukhi rudraksha. These can be worn by everyone and it is believed that they can soothe the nerves, improve watchfulness and lower blood pressure.
For yoga practitioners who need a mala for Japa yoga or other mantra chanting practices, rudraksha beads are a powerful alternative to wood, metal or plastic beads.