WARNING: Images below may be considered graphic and violent.
For some, body suspension is just another extreme sport. For others, it’s a ritual. Some people who go through body suspension feel a sort of spiritual awakening when they take part in letting hooks and pins be inserted underneath their skin. It’s been explained as “flying without wings”, once actually suspended in the air. One reason why people keep going back to body suspension is because it builds upon their strength and tolerance. It’s a way to combat the storms that life may throw around. Suspension can be painful, but working past that pain is part of the beauty of this unique experience. It’s something that genuinely brings happiness and release to so many across the world. Even so, there’s still a larger group of people who don’t quite understand the relevance of it.
Human suspension has been around for thousands of years. Cultures all across the world engaged in this act as a way to portray their spiritual devotion. In some religions, deeper pain signified deeper devotion. In India, the first recordings of human suspension date back five thousand years. It was at a time when people were exploring ways of transcending the body whilst using the body.
Now, there are communities all over the globe whose passion is suspending themselves in the air. Each suspension is overseen by people called “suspension artists”. Although it’s less of an art and more of a learned skill. There is generally a small team of professionals who facilitate each suspension. They map out the suspendee’s body, carefully deciding what size hooks must be used at which distance in specific positions. There is a lot of math and human anatomy knowledge involved. It’s also important to know how durable each individual’s skin may be. This is usually a pretty long and arduous procedure. This part of the process lasts far longer than the average amount of time the suspendee will spend in the air. Sanitation and safety are also applied. Just like a regular piercing process, professionals carefully handle the human body with gloves and sterilized tools.
Each rigging is carefully crafted by professionals so that it can balance out the suspendees. These riggings must be able to hold the weight of the person and not break. If people want to sway or move about during their suspension, this must also be factored into the creation of the rigging. Because the most difficult part is not the piercing or the hooking itself. It’s ensuring that everything remains stable so each person can focus on what it is they came to find. Whether it’s a spiritual experience, the adrenaline aspect, or something else.
“I enjoy doing (suspension) because of the different intents and energy doing so can hold,” explains Cupcake SinClair, a vivacious young model who has been through various suspension sessions facilitated by Meister Schmerz over the past year. In July, Cupcake attended a hook suspension convention in Oslo, Norway. It was a week-long event which brought together many suspension teams from all over the world. That week was crammed full of hooks and plenty of creativity. “A large portion of my suspensions tend to be for the purpose of simply challenging the limits of my body. So many of us are afraid of pain and being able to stare it in the eye. (Exploring) what that process is like is incredibly powerful. In the same vein, it can also act as therapy.” A video of Cupcake features a tremendous display: Cupcake suspended in the suicide pose over the base of a rushing waterfall in Oslo. There’s no sound except for the water. She glides gracefully up and down in the dynamic suspension, dipping her toes into the soft tumult below.
“My very first suspension was a year ago,” Cupcake continued. “The main reason I did it was because I was going through a lot of personal problems. With a new year approaching, I felt that I needed to transcend the old shit I had gone through. (I wanted to) “come back to earth” feeling renewed. It was a powerful experience and extremely cathartic. Now I try to do it as often as possible!”
Body suspension does look like it can be relaxing, once you get past the initial pain of being hoisted up. You also have to trust that your body weight can be suspended in such a manner, with the rigging supporting you.
Depending on where you are, there could be many different suspension communities. It’s still a growing trend, so it might be difficult to pinpoint them at first. In Los Angeles, where Cupcake lives, she has found a few main suspension groups which facilitate monthly meets. “And that’s also something I always look forward to,” revealed Cupcake. “It helps clear my mind of troubles from that month. It gives me a fresh perspective.”
I was really interested in hearing about what Cupcake felt when she engaged in body suspension. I wanted to know what meaning it held. “For me, body suspension symbolizes not only art but also willpower and therapy,” she divulged, careful to explain that what she feels may not mirror what other people might experience during this process. “The adrenaline rush is amazing and is a sensation unlike any other. Yes, it’s painful. But the entirety of the experience is so much more than just that. Embracing all points of it allows me to feel the catharsis I need as well as remind myself that I’m stronger than any problems I might be going through.”
Suspension isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s something I may want to try down the road. However, my partner refuses to even look at photos of body suspension. And it’s something that does have controversial tones to it. In the past, human suspension has been used as mere sideshow attractions to display what the human body is capable of. But suspension is so much more than that. It’s sacred, personal, and vulnerable. It means something different to each individual seeking out suspension.
Regardless of where you stand, it’s crucial not to discriminate against the people who choose to include suspension as a part of their lives. For many, suspension is still a very sacred act. Everyone has their own ways of pushing themselves forward, trying new things, and growing in self-awareness. Suspension is one more way to do just that.