All systems go.
To the first time flyers: Congratulations on accepting the challenge to fly far outside of your comfort zone. Every flyer before you has been where you are now. Welcome home.
To the frequent flyers: Thank you for trusting us to support you ever farther in your journey. Welcome back.
The recommendations on this page come from the collective experience of the community of flyers. No list of recommendations can be foolproof or perfect for everyone, and we believe that all flyers should speak to many trusted resources about how to prepare for the experience. Nonetheless, we find that these recommendations have been consistently valuable for us and our community. Please review this page completely before flying with the SuspenDC crew, especially if this will be your first flight.
Your Health, Safety, & Comfort
Experienced or novice, some things just have to be done. Taking good care of yourself before engaging in a suspension puts you on the right path. These tips can help you make sure you get the self care you need:
If you have special medical circumstances, check in with your healthcare provider(s) to verify that your body is up for this type of challenge. Be aware of your potential needs and prepare accordingly, including informing the crew appropriately of any concerns.
Get some sleep before you fly. Suspension is demanding. Being well rested increases the stamina you bring to the experience.
Be well hydrated. Dehydration can increase sensitivity to pain and weaken the immune system. Drink water and eat your veggies.
Eat before you fly, but not immediately before. You should be well nourished to support yourself through the experience; at the same time, you want to avoid feeling overly full. For many people, that means no food for at least an hour before a suspension.
Avoid alcohol at least 24 hours before and 8 hours after flying. Alcohol prevents blood from clotting, a needed response in this situation.
Ask questions and ensure you are comfortable with the answers. Your sense of security and trust in the process is essential. We are happy to answer questions, give advice, discuss our procedures and training, or share our own experiences in as much detail as you need to feel comfortable.
Bring at least one support person with you. Flying can be rough on the body and the self. Bring a friend with you to help process your experiences and ensure you transition safely back to the rest of the world. Especially for first time flyers, we strongly encourage you to have someone available to drive you home after the event.
Plan your post flight meal, ideally something that a) is high in protein and b) makes you feel good! You challenged the impossible—celebrate!
Know why you are flying. Continue reading for a deeper discussion of the goals and challenges of suspension.
See our Flyer’s Checklist for a one-page printable version of this information.
Hook suspensions are an extreme challenge to every part of your body and self. We each bring unique strengths and weaknesses to meet this challenge. Once you have built the foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy (your physical health, safety, and comfort) with the suggestions above, consider what draws you to this challenge in order to address your mental and emotional needs.
What kind of challenge does a suspension create for you? Is this a physical challenge? A personal rite of passage? An instinct? A spiritual quest? Your experience depends on your approach. A lesson commonly learned from an extreme challenge is just how much of the challenge was actually mental or emotional.
The physical challenge of suspensions is pain. Getting pierced hurts. Having your body weight on hooks through holes in your skin hurts. If this is your first experience with body modification, bear in mind that it will always hurt at some level. A healthy, balanced system can take the strain and rise above it.
Don’t believe us? In well-documented experiments repeated since the 1930s, human connective tissue has proven to be amazingly strong. In a recent study (Gallagher et al. 2012), human skin was shown to have an average breaking load of just below 4000 pounds per square inch (27.2 MPa). We are very resilient creatures! Sometimes the body needs a challenge to keep our minds active.
Everyone processes this experience differently. Consider what you need to self soothe when you are physical pain. Our flyers have adapted pain processing techniques from yoga, BDSM, extreme sports, and more in order to surmount the ordeal in ways that feel natural for them.
Unsure where to start? Try this yogic breathing technique: as you breathe naturally, try to make your breath out longer than your breath in. You can do this by slightly resisting your breath out (making a sssss or haaaaa sound as you exhale) or by counting heartbeats during your inhale and trying to count more of them during your exhale. This can help lower the sensitivity of the nervous system.
Understanding your body’s endorphin response can help you know when you reach your limits. The cycle of endorphin peak and drop commonly lasts 20-30 minutes after lifting off the ground in a suspension, but for some it can be much shorter, and for others, much longer. The only timer on this experience is your own body. For a first time flyer, the end your endorphin cycle makes a good place to stop. You can always come back and do this again for longer.
Above all, knowing the reason you choose to face the pain can make the difference between success and failure.
The personal challenge of a suspension centers on facing and overcoming the mental obstacles to getting off the ground. For every flyer, the hardest part of taking off usually involves lifting their foot (or more likely, the very tips of their toes) off the ground and mentally trusting all their weight to the hooks. Feeling this struggle in the moment, even for the most experienced flyers, marks a significant point in every suspension. The human mind can use this extreme experience to challenge internal beliefs about one’s own self worth, personal accomplishment, courage, willpower, and more. This inner struggle is played out through the process of overcoming the physical challenge. Succeeding at this process leaves a person with a great sense of achievement and personal value for having overcome their fear and self doubt.
Preparing to engage with this type of challenge will be unique to your circumstances in the moment. A few suggestions that help most flyers:
Write down the internal “stuff” you want to confront through this experience. This is best done as a positive, present tense statement. For example: “I realize my courage by facing the challenge of this suspension.” Or, “I am strong and I trust my body to hold me.” Or simply, “Trust.” Your own words will be better for you than anything we could suggest. Whatever you write, put it somewhere so you can read it at least once in the morning and once in the evening. The more often you focus on it, the better. Read it silently or say it to yourself aloud. Feel how you respond.
Bring a support person with you to the event. Bring someone who you trust and who is willing to be emotional support for you before, during, and after your suspension. You may go through an emotional catharsis around such an extreme experience. Have someone on hand that you trust to be there just for you. For your safety, it is preferable to have this person drive you to and from the event, as well.
If you have an item that helps you to feel safe, consider bringing it along on your flight. The #1 thing that will help you accomplish your goals in this space is feeling safe in the moment. The crew will help to ensure your physical safety, but only you know what you need to feel safe mentally and emotionally. Take some time to consider what you need and then make reasonable accommodations for those needs. A blanket, a teddy bear, your comfiest sweats, a favorite necklace—only you know what it might be.
SuspenDC is designed to support our community in using suspension as a spiritual challenge. Suspension is, from a certain perspective, a controlled disaster from which you are guaranteed to escape in one piece. This can create an opportunity for the mind to play with the doors of perception in profound ways. You may use the experience as a window into how you act and react when under extreme stress. It can also open up deep places within the mind that are responsible for experiences of connection with the Divine (whatever that might mean for you). See Why We Fly to learn more about our perspective on the Magik of Ordeal.
Many aspects of SuspenDC are designed to support this process. We open the event with a community ritual intended to help everyone bring their awareness into the present moment and connect with the others around you. We also make time to state the agreements for how we will use the space together safely. Many of our volunteers are experienced spiritual guides who attend to support those using this experience to confront internal spiritual challenges.
Live drumming occurs during most of our events, and you are welcome to request the drummers to drum in a way that will help your experience. Drumming is an ancient tool for triggering deep trance and creating a common connecting frequency between everyone in a ritual space.
Many practical guidelines for flyers develop even deeper importance and significance when viewed through the lens of spiritual challenge. Using suspension as a tool for spiritual development hinges on feeling safe in the moment to explore your internal landscape. As Maslow expressed with his hierarchy of needs, if an individual does not feel fundamentally safe within their surroundings and their self, spiritual exploration is a non-starter. We can support your physical safety and offer suggestions to meet your mental and emotional needs, but you are the final arbiter of what helps you feel safe.
Bring your people. Having a support person, or people, is important in facing a spiritual challenge. They are your “ground crew,” and the certainty that someone is there to watch out for your safety can allow you to travel deeper into your personal experience. The aftercare a support person provides is also very important. Many people can come back from deep trance experiences feeling dazed and confused. Having a known, friendly face to welcome you back can be very comforting.
Care for your body. Spiritual practitioners in all of recorded history have espoused the benefits of a healthy body to tackle the challenges of spiritual development. Make sure to take care of yourself in the weeks before the event. Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, hydrate, exercise a bit each day, and prepare the techniques you will use to manage the physical ordeal of suspension.
Focus your mind. Write out your objective and put it some place that you can see it every day. Then, take this one step further: set aside a few minutes each day, multiple times a day, and quietly imagine your suspension and the spiritual goal you are working towards. We recommend aiming for 30 minutes in total per day, as your time permits. Consider making notes about these periods of contemplation. If you keep a journal, write about your responses and reactions to this exercise. If you don’t normally journal, consider doing so in the weeks before the suspension. Repeated contemplation and imagination is a powerful tool for focusing your subconscious to do what you want—so when your system is under stress in the moment, the subconscious can kick in and take you where you want to be.
Finally, for those seeking even more of a challenge, physical stress can be added to the experience through fasting before hand. In many ancient traditions, fasting is used as a tool for increasing the intensity of spiritual ordeals. The basic idea is that the process of fasting begins the separation of the mind from the body, as the individual must overcome the demands of the body to be fed. This practice makes it easier for them to escape the constraints of the everyday physical senses during the suspension and is said to open up the doors of perception onto the godhead. This is considered an advanced practice. One should already have experience with fasting and suspension as separate practices before combining them. If you choose to follow this path, let the suspension team know about your decision so we can take it into consideration for your safety.