I have so many thoughts on getting into suspension, and I've heard this question a lot:
"I want to get suspended, what should I know beforehand?"
This article is aimed at people who have been doing floorwork and want to move into suspension. It can be a big step on your rope journey, and a lot of people really enjoy suspension bondage. I want to preface this with the fact that suspension is not the be all, end all of rope and I feel that it's totally valid to not do suspension at all, or even to not want to do suspension. A lot of people tend to jump into suspension, in my opinion, a bit too quickly so I want to start with the most key advice I have:
Take your time
Caveats aside, what are some thoughts that might be helpful to new rope bottoms, that want to be suspended?
Ask for the tie to be reasonable for a beginner.
We could debate whether suspension is reasonable for a beginner at all, and I want to be clear, I don't mean total beginner, I mean beginner at suspension. I'm sure most rope bottoms will agree that some shapes or sequences are more comfortable and less strenuous than others. For a beginner it is not a bad idea to go for these kinds of shapes.
There are some things that can help make a tie more reasonable and beginner friendly (or just more comfortable).
Hip support - it may be a good idea to request something with plenty of hip support, or several harnesses that will help to support your hips. Often the hips are one of the heaviest areas of our bodies, and are quite strong. Supporting the hips and the chest can help to make a tie relatively comfortable.
Go for a sequence that's not too elaborate - maybe try one shape rather than attempting an 8 position sequence.
Choose a shape that doesn't rely so much on active engagement from the bottom. Shapes such as Kata ashi, Running person, or other shapes with one chest harness and two single column ties on the legs tend to require a lot of active engagement. Shapes with two or three harnesses loaded tend to require less active engagement.
Build your own knowledge and assess your risk profile
Read up on nerves and nerve risks, and think about the other injury risks of suspension. The single most common nerve injury in rope is a radial nerve injury, that often happens in a TK. A TK (Takate kote also known as a gote, box tie or hands behind the back tie) is a chest harness with the hands behind the back with wraps that go over the upper arms, like in the picture below:
Think about whether you are happy to take the risks that being suspended in a TK comes with. Lots of people tie TKs all the time, and might not explicitly describe the risks to you. They might tie you in a TK for your first suspension because people who like bondage tend to feel very bound in this harness, so it can give a 'good impression' of what rope bondage is like, it might not be because they think it's safe. Some people believe you shouldn't tie people in their first suspension in a TK, some people feel it depends on the person being suspended, some people find it perfectly normal to tie someone in a TK for their first suspension. It's up to you to think about how you feel about it.
If you are tied in a TK, pay attention to your hands - one of the worst feelings for a rigger when suspending newer people is if they don't notice tingling in their hands, or they think it's normal, and they come down and realize they have a (preventable) injury. I would be so upset if I injured someone because they didn't know to tell me. If anything in your hands feels weird let the person tying you know.
Part of the responsibility, in my opinion, of being a rope bottom is to understand the risks of being tied, and being suspended. It's your body - why rely on other people to tell you what the situation is?
Suspension can be painful
Even if its not explicitly designed to be, suspension can be painful or at least uncomfortable. For me this was the biggest hurdle to enjoying suspension. People make it look easy with peaceful expressions and elegant postures, but in reality it can hurt like hell! I find new ties more painful too because of the surprise element.
A lot of people find upright positions really hard, thanks to @ropepodcast for confirming that this is not just a me thing, (through their 30 questions challenge, question 6). In chest harnesses that include the arms, a lot of pressure can be put onto the arms which can be uncomfortable, in arms free chest harnesses the compression on the ribcage itself can be very intense. On top of this, many upright positions don't have a lot of hip support. I would avoid upright ties as a beginner to suspension.
You don't know what you don't know
Be prepared for the fact that you might not like everything - it's really hard to know until you get in there air whether you will like all the elements, even if you like the harnesses on the ground. When suspended most harnesses will put a lot more pressure onto your body than they would when not loaded. Furthermore, its OK to NOT like stuff - for the first couple of times you are suspended try to pay attention to things that you liked or didn't like and you can file away all these bits of data for your next scenes.
It's also quite possible that the person tying you uses harnesses on other rope bottoms that just don't work well for your body. There is a lot of variety in the sensations that different people like, and different people can have very different mobility and strength. If something feels painful or weird, there's a very real possibility that the harness might need to be adjusted for you. It can take time and trying things out to find different versions that work better for you. While you experience suspension, you might find out that you have strong preferences for particular variations of different harnesses - that's also really good data to store for your next sessions.
The scene (or specific things) can stop whenever you're done.
You can tap out at any time - you don't have to wait until the end of a sequence to come down. In fact you can come down, and go back up again if you need to or want to. Sometimes experienced riggers might be used to doing long scenes, and they can forget how intense it can be on the body, if you're done it's perfectly OK to be done.
Thanks for reading! I hope someone find this advice and these thoughts to be helpful in some way.
This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list!
What do you think is good advice for rope bottoms that want to get into suspension?
This article was published with permission of it's author Rosa_canina