What is a mala?

Most scholars agree that the earliest use of prayer beads comes from India in the eighth century B.C. The word Mala in Sanskrit translates roughly as "precious garland". The tradition of using beads in devotion can be traced from there.
A mala is a meditative tool, which can be an aide in healing the body, mind, and spirit through projected vibrations combined with the ancient qualities of healing gem stones. A mala consists of 108, 54, or 27 beads; it is strung on silk with one larger (guru) bead at the base, from which a tassel hangs, symbolizing the wisdom held in a thousand lotus petals.

How to use a mala?