Definition - What does Rudraksha mean?
Rudraksha, or rudraksh, is the name of a special seed from which mala (yoga beads) may be made. They are the seeds of eliocarpus ganiturus -- a patulous evergreen tree.
Individual rudraksha seeds are connected into a mala, usually consisting of 108 beads plus one additional bead - the bindu. The seeds are organic and it is recommended to wear them on thong or cord instead of a metal string.
Rudraksha beads are used for japa, which is the repetition of a mantra as a means of meditation. In yoga, they are most often used as part of Japa yoga, but can be used by any practitioner who wishes to count their mantras. It is also believed they can be helpful in the treatment of some illnesses in traditional Indian medicine.
Yogapedia explains Rudraksha
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.