Body suspension from hooks – my holistic first experience
Content warning: explicit content and visuals. Only thumbnail images of the body suspension will be shown but they can be enlarged if desired.
“It was a little bit of a self-discovery moment, which was definitely something I had not been expecting to gain from the experience.” K takes us through her own personal journey into the extreme body mod practice of body suspension from hooks.
I recently wrote about my experiences with flesh-pulling and since then have also performed a body suspension. While the pull was an entirely positive experience, the suspension had moments of discomfort due to the unexpected reactions of my body to the event, despite my research. I hope my experience can help others with regards to preparing for the unexpected if any readers are ever in a similar position.
The body suspension was to take place as part of a live show. My preparations for the event began a month in advance and involved a slight change in diet and meditation activities.
My pre-body suspension diet
I was advised to eat fried eggs every day to build up the protein and oils in my body to ensure healthy, strong, elastic skin. However, I am (mostly) vegan so instead I ensured that I ate my usual portion of legumes, supplemented with nuts and a lot of soy-based protein powder.
My friend and suspension-guru also advised me to have a slab of chocolate about once a week. I asked why. He told me not to question his all-knowing wisdom. I began to protest, then realised I was requesting a reason to eat chocolate, and stopped. But basically it was suggested because chocolate produces endorphins and all those happy things that are good for you. What did I care; I began happily munching away at chocolate-covered Brazil nuts every week.
Cleansing and detoxifying
Other than diet, I was advised not to drink, smoke, or do any hard drugs. I was also meant to drink a glass of salt-water every morning to assist with the detoxification process. Besides that, I took a lot of vitamins (a multivitamin, flaxseed-oil capsules, iron, extra vitamin C for collagen renewal, and a calcium-magnesium combo) spread throughout the day for optimum absorption. It was kind of a full-time awareness of what I needed to do to be super healthy.
I also did daily exercise (dancing, cycling, crunches, skipping) and ate a lot of raw food. Whenever possible I also got back massages to loosen the skin and dissolve as much inherent tension as possible.
The type of body suspension I was to participate in is the kind where the performer hangs vertically. There would be four hooks inserted into the skin of my upper back/shoulder area. When it came to the piercing itself I was slightly nervy but unafraid, because my previous experience with hooking (at my flesh-pulling) had been reasonably painless.
Performing my first body suspension – what it was really like.
Pictures will be included in this section.
The first piercing (left shoulder) was fine. The skin was clamped (ie pinched into an easily-pierceable fold), the 3mm hollow needle went in; the point of the hook was threaded and forced into place.
The second was a little rougher.
The third was downright painful. It felt like the needle was going through skin the texture of soft clay, then hitting layers of tough cardboard and exiting through soft clay again.
Afterwards the person that clamped me said that my skin was so taut that he struggled to hold it in place. They also had to adjust the placement of the hooks as the areas of some of the original markings did not have enough ‘give’ to allow for clamping as the skin reacted to the trauma. The inner layers were involuntarily tensing up, no matter how I tried to relax or do my breathing exercises, and it was starting to get quite unsettling.
The reason for this was simple: the needles they used were only 3mm in diameter while the hooks were about 5mm. At my flesh-pull the hooks had been smaller and slid in easily. For my suspension, however, I had not prepared mentally for the trauma of the hooks being forced through the fresh wounds of the piercing, and my body was quick to react; tensing involuntarily.
What exacerbated the situation, ironically, was the amount of support I had from all my friends in the crowd. Everyone was screaming encouragement and trying to catch my eye, which intruded on my private zen space. Their support, although well-meant, was rather overwhelming to my already heightened state. After the hooks were inserted and the carabiners clipped I had to excuse myself to escape the crowd for a short while in order to regain my composure.
Once I had calmed somewhat I went back inside and stood with my back to the rig, facing the crowd. The carabiners were clipped to ropes and my friend explained that they would begin to hoist the rig just until the ropes were tight, at which point I should allow myself to be lifted into my toes. He would check if I was okay, then I should allow myself to leave the ground. He also advised that I curl my feet up immediately, which would help the spine re-adjust to being off the ground.
One of the tattoo artists/modifiers came to hold my hands and guide me as I went up.
As I left the ground I pressed hard on his hands, basically using him to exert pressure downwards and relieve the pull on my upper back. At this point I was scared, despite all my research and preparation. I’d been thrown by what my mind had been convinced would be the ‘easy’ part; my senses and emotions were heightened and it was just a very visceral space to be in.
There was a moment of internal fear and pressure on my upper back, and I curled my legs up just as I had been told. Then I let go. My legs were up behind me and my skin adjusted to its new weight, accommodated the stretch and realigned on its hooks. I could hear the crowd cheering but felt quite removed from it; leaving the ground was an indescribable feeling.
After the skin adjusted there was no perceivable pain. My friend began pushing me to create motion and I swung my legs like one would on a swing. My arms were a little stiff due to the skin on the shoulders being stretched upwards, but other than that I felt no discernible discomfort. The only pain was a twinge in the far-right piercing; the last and most painful one, and fearing the area was tearing I asked to come down.
Looking back on my experience
Of course it was fine (I had been very carefully supervised) but retrospectively I’m glad I listened to my body. I was only up for about ten minutes, but to me it was a seemingly paradoxical space where time was interminable and endless and yet went so quickly. You feel the ‘weightlessness’ of your own body coupled with the (slowly) increasing pressure on the piercing sites. You’re aware of your own bodily ‘noise’ and the endlessness of your own thoughts as the swinging becomes a natural rhythm.
The only advice I can offer to newcomers interested in performing a body suspension is to realise that the extremity of the physical experience might lead to a similarly-heightened emotional one. Prepare your body carefully, but do not neglect the mind. Make sure you know the people hooking you; don’t just trust your body in the hands of random humans.
And, as always, have fun and be safe.
All photos copyright -K.