Rope bondage can be dangerous. Any rope top who tells you different you should avoid playing with. We put ourselves in positions where we cannot move, our bodies are twisted, and sometimes even hung up in the air. You hear about nerve injuries and countless other injuries in rope (maybe one of the most dangerous kinks?). When someone asks me how to be a better rope bottom, I tell them that the first step is to learn their own body. You need to be honest with yourself about where your physical limits are, and don’t push those limits until you are positive you can.
I have scar tissue in both of my shoulders, and a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. In other words, my shoulders are fucked up, seriously. I do not have the same range of rotation in my shoulders as some people, and the way that the syndrome manifests itself is numbness and tingling, which are a rope lovers worst nightmare. Some ties are less sustainable for me, including even a simple box tie. However, there are ways that I have worked around this. I worked hard on my body and now I have much more rotation and can sustain more strenuous arm ties.
When I realized that my shoulders were stopping me from doing things I loved like rope and aerial dance, I began to see a massage therapist at least once a month. Aside from being incredibly relaxing, a sports or deep tissue massage coupled with physical therapy and stretching can improve a lot of muscular issues. The more descriptive you can be about where you feel pain the easier it is for a therapist. I recommend trying to see the same massage therapist for all of your massages if at all possible, as it gives the therapist an opportunity to learn your body and see your improvement. You don’t have to tell them about rope, but it may be helpful for them to understand where you might be prone to injury or pain. Often times local BDSM clubs will have a book of local kink friendly businesses, where you can find a kink-friendly therapist.
Learn the Difference Between Rope Pain and Nerve Pain
Rope hurts. Even the nicest suspension is putting rope in some kind of ouchie places on your body. Some things like a chest harness without arm wraps will always hurt. Getting inverted by one ankle will always hurt. However, having a compressed nerve is entirely different. Having a wrap in the wrong place is completely different. A tie that isn’t properly executed can be excruciating in the wrong kind of way. Tingling, especially in a localized part of the body like half of the foot or certain fingers in the hand are a warning sign. Numbness isn’t exactly bad but it can mask nerve damage that is happening in the numb limb. Once I feel something go distinctly numb, I usually let my rope top know and then wiggle my fingers. If I feel like my fingers are hard to move or weak, I will ask to be let out of that tie sooner rather than later. A good rope top should be facilitating this by squeezing your hands and feeling for a firm squeeze back.
Yoga and Strength Training
The stronger your body is, the more you will be able to take. A lot of suspensions involve the engagement of your core muscles. As you become more experienced with rope you will learn when engaging your muscles is appropriate and when you should try to relax in to a tie. Yoga can really help you learn your body. Even better, try an aerial yoga class! Aerial yoga is a hammock of fabric that helps you get deep in to poses, and can also help you get comfortable with being upside down. I also recommend stretching and warming up your body before going in to a rope scene. I will do a few cycles of stretches and try to get my heart rate up a little bit also, just to warm up my muscles. I try not to sit in a cold dungeon for a long time before a scene, I need to start moving before I play.
Only Go 75% of Your Maximum
I learned this one from contortion and flexibility training. Becoming more flexible for rope bondage is not a ‘Go Hard or Go Home’ task. You go 75% of your max in whatever you are doing, and as time goes on that 75% will be deeper and deeper. So when you are being put in to a back bend or another strenuous pose in rope bondage, tell the top to stop a little bit before what you would consider the ‘oh god too much’ point. Why? Because your body is being HELD in a strenuous position and you will not be able to engage out of it when you want/need to. You will maybe be in the air, which puts more pull on parts of your body that might be on the ground during a normal stretch.
Rest, Rest, Rest
Treat yourself like you are an athlete after rope. Drink lots of water before and after a scene, eat healthy and rest. I usually avoid any serious physical activity the day after a scene. Yes, I take rest days. I am a very active person and probably am active about two hours every day, EXCEPT at least once a week where I take a day off. I might gently stretch or get a massage on my rest day, but really I take it easy.
I have so much more I could add to this subject and I sure I will in the future. A lot of this takes trial and error. You will learn what ties are sustainable to you and how long you can be in them, and it is perfectly OK in the beginning if you don’t know that. Just be communicative with who you are tying with and let them know that you are new. There is no shame in saying you need to come down, but being able to give an accurate estimate about how long you have in rope is very helpful to a top.