Well there's mula bandha, uddiyana bandha, jalandhara baanda.....that one where all three are engaged, what's that called again... and isn't there another where mula bandha is engaged all the time....
Recently Micqui of (Ashtanga Angel blog ) did a post on another bandha in the foot, where you kind of grip the mat with the toes and heels sucking up the instep. I mentioned it briefly in a comment on one of my posts and then Kecskeméti Balázs commented back about a book he was reading on anatomy that had several other bandhas.
'Hi Grimmly, have you heard about Simon Borg-Olivier? I just came across his book Applied Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga, he seems to have an interesting approach to bandhas. He explains them in terms of activation of muscles and also generalises the idea (besides the 3 main bandhas he lists 6 more "bandhas" eg. knee bandha, shoulder bandha etc.) and also multiple ways to activate them (eg using posture). It's all a bit complicated but for me seems to be worth exploring. I just mentioned this as I feel reading his book is now curing my suspicious attitude towards bandhas'.
I looked into it.
The Book is APPLIED ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY OF YOGA by Simon Borg-Olivier
MSc BAppSc (Physiotherapy) & Bianca Machliss BSc BAppSc (Physiotherapy)
As Balazs mentions, they come up with nine bandhas.
'In traditional hatha yoga, a bandha (from the Sanskrit: meaning to bind or lock) is described as a subtle internal energy lock or grip. Bandhas are said to be used to control and guide the energy gathered and generated by the internal body pressures created during hatha yoga via the postures, the muscles and the breath [Sections 1.0.4 & 8.4.1].
On a more physical level a bandha is the co-activation of opposing muscles [Section 220.127.116.11] around a joint complex [Section 1.5.3] that helps stabilise, strengthen and energise that joint complex' p58
'In most of the texts on yoga only three main bandhas are described. These bandhas are intimately connected with the strength and stability of the lumbosacrococcygeal spinal joint complex of the lower back (mula bandha), the thoracic spine joint complex of the upper back (uddiyana bandha), and the cervical spine joint complex of the neck (jalandhara bandha)'. p59
'The concept that bandhas are co-activations of opposing muscles can be extended to the major joints of the upper and lower limbs. Co-activation of opposing muscles around joint complexes (bandha) provides the strength and stability to safely perform advanced yoga postures, and to assist in the Àow of energy throughout the body.' p60
Here then are their nine bandhas
1. kulpha bandha ankle joint complex.
2. janu bandha knee joint complex.
3. kati bandha hip joint complex
4. mula bandha lumbar spine joint complex
5. uddiyana bandha chest and thoracic spine joint complex.
6. jalandhara bandha cervical spine joint complex.
7. amsa bandha ishoulder joint complex.
8. kurpara bandha elbow joint complex
9. mani bandha wrist joint complex
Recently my teacher Ramaswami, who studied with Krishnamacharya for 30 years so a pretty classical, traditional teacher, was talking about how engaging mula and uddiaya bandha supports the base of the spine during back bending ...as if you were gripping the handle of of a fishing rod.
And in his most recent newsletter ( see yesterday ) he's writing about how asana works with the joints
'Yoga, especially vinyasakrama yoga, tends to work with almost all the articulation of all the joints especially the ankles, knees, hips, the spine and arms'.
One of the many things Borg-Oliver and Machliss are doing are doing in their book is showing how it's possible to approach each of the joints we work in yoga asana and, while practicing, give the same kind of support to the joints we're familiar with from the three more well known bandhas.
Which leads to a safer practice
...and because, the joints are more supported, perhaps allow us to take our practice further into more challenging asana.
Borg-Oliver and Machliss not only describe and illustrate the anatomy and physiology of these nine bandhas they also give suggestions and postures (with lots of pictures) on how to develop and control those bandhas.
This is only one area of their book, it's a pretty comprehensive and detailed applied anatomy and physiology of yoga, take a look for yourselves, they have a fifty odd page downloadable sample from their website yoga synergy and HERE's a link direct to the sample. The book is available as a pdf download, looks excellent on the iPad (what were you going to buy your iPad for christmas ), or in book form direct from them. It's also on Amazon, I bought mine from Amazon.com as it was a lot cheaper than in the UK. When looking at it on their website remember the price is in Australian dollars.
Oh and they also have an online course, which is looking tempting.
Expect to hear more from me on this as I work through the book, perhaps a post, a taste, each of their nine bandhas. Plus they have a lot to say on how asana facilitates circulation of the blood etc. around the body in asana, an interesting section on Pranayama, on diet......