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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rope Bottoming Skills: Endurance


noun \in-ˈdu̇r-ən(t)s, -ˈdyu̇r-, en-\
Definition of ENDURANCE1: permanence, duration <the endurance of the play's importance>2: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity <a marathon runner's endurance>3: the act or an instance of enduring or suffering <endurance of many hardships>

I think it’s agreed by a majority of rope bottoms that endurance, especially in tricky or stressful positions, is a great skill to have.  Above I posted a basic definition of endurance that I lifted from  I think definition two and three are most applicable.  Or maybe I just really like seeing the word ‘suffering’.

I posed this question to a local rope bottom group:  
How do you increase your endurance when it comes to rope?  Got any tips or tricks?

I just want to comment that my rope bottom community has some amazing bottoms with excellent insight.  The first thing I noticed in every response is that not a single person said “It’s something you either have or you don’t.”  I think it’s very easy for people to give into the idea that you’re either a good rope bottom or you aren’t.   

What I love about endurance is that it’s something that can be built up; it’s a skill that can increase with practice and time.  When I started in bondage, I didn’t have much endurance at all.  I couldn’t maintain stressful positions physically or mentally-- and yes, there is a huge mental component to endurance.  If you practice regularly, you can up your endurance in rope pretty easily.

My community came up with an awesome list of things that really have increased their time in rope.  Here are several awesome tips and tricks that seem to be helping us and I hope they help others as well.

  • Stretching and exercise: Doing regular stretching, yoga and/or exercise helps improve flexibility and health.  A rope bottom doesn’t have to be gumby or all-star athlete Hope Solo, but doing stretches helps warm up the muscles and body before play.  You are more prone to injuries if you haven’t warmed up muscles beforehand.  Exercises that really help with rope bondage (especially suspension) include things that keep you off balanced, like bosu balls, exercise balls and slacklines.  These engage the same core muscles as does a really tough bondage position or suspension.  Tifereth has a whole plethora of exercises that she has demonstrated in her bottoming classes- hopefully, I will be able to put up a post (with visuals) for those interested.  I think Tifereth says it best (paraphrasing), you absolutely cannot hope that your Rigger or Rope Top can cover the deficits in you if you didn’t put work in.  A rope Top puts in hours and hours of work and practice in order to be a safe rigger- who are you to not put your share of work in as well? Yoga also has the added benefit of teaching you how to breathe in difficult positions which brings us to...
  • Breathing: Breathing came up in almost every single response I saw when I posted this question.  Even and slow breathing helps keep the body and mind relaxed.  When I first started in bondage, I was notoriously bad for holding my breath and not being able to prolong a stressful tie. So keeping calm by really regulating breathing patterns is important.  Some people are good at reminding themselves to not hold their breath.  If you ever find yourself in something stressful, it’s always good to take a deep breath in and out and see if that helps.
  • Practice: Practicing in rope lab mode on a fairly regular basis will help your body and mind get used to challenges.  Just like a rigger needs to practice in order to maintain or improve muscle memory and fluidity, a rope bottom needs to practice as well.  Being in lab mode also tends to keep your mind from going into a headspace/subspace because you know you’re practicing and not playing.  I try to practice several times a week, even if it’s something very simple like tying a futomomo on myself.
  • Communication: Learning to communicate is high on almost everyone’s list of good bottoming skills.  Proper communication between a Top and bottom prior, during, and after play will help improve endurance and stamina.  One thing that I cannot stress enough is that asking for a readjustment in rope is not Topping from the bottom! You are being a responsible bottom by letting your Top know that something isn’t right- it’s keeping both of you safe. Communication includes:
    • Communication with the Top: Aside from negotiation--which is such a big topic, it’ll probably be addressed separately-- knowing how to communicate how rope feels on your body and where is important.  Just saying “This hurts a lot!” doesn’t help your Top adjust the tie in order to make it more tolerable.  Learning to identify exactly what doesn’t feel right and expressing it clearly and calmly will do wonders for increasing your longevity in rope.
    • Communication with yourself: I don’t mean talking to yourself persay- it’s more about knowing how to communicate to yourself about where pain is, what kind of pain it is, and how to handle it.  This leads into our next tip...
  • Knowing Your Own Body: There should never be a question when it comes to your health at all.  Grey areas aren’t cool and it isn’t fair to you or your rope Top to come to the table without knowing everything there is to know about yourself.  Several responses included things like knowing what parts of the body are sensitive and being able to communicate that.  Key things that knowing your body will allow you to do include:
    • Creating ties that are tailored to you.  Once you know your body well enough, you can work with a rigger/rope Top in order to create ties that are designed to be challenging to your endurance, but not impossible.  M0co knows I have an extremely hard time with strappados/armbinders, so he and I spent a day testing our various versions to see if there were any types of ties that were more tolerable.  We eventually found a version of strappado that I can actually tolerate.  A rope Top never wants to make a bottom feel like a failure and will be more than happy to work on building up their repertoire.  Plus, it’s kinda cool to have a tie designed specifically for you :)
  • Knowing a good pain from a bad pain. or any sensation for that matter. Understanding what a good pain, a bad pain or an unusual sensation is really important for endurance and prolonging play safely.  In my opinion good pain is one that you enjoy or is tolerable.  It tends to feel pretty terrible at first, but, for lack of a better word, it tends to even out as you stay in it.  A bad pain is something that doesn’t get better with time, need immediate attention and is usually (not always) unexpected. Spiral wrote this awesome explanation of a process called compartmentalization (or fragmentation) that ze uses.
    Basically goes like this: I close my eyes, or just visually focus on nothing in particular, and instead focus on really feeling what's going on in my body. Check to feel my circulation, if anything is too tingly. I check to feel if I'm tensing up in a specific area, and focus on relaxing that area. Check to see (especially in a suspension) if one small area is taking what feels like too much weight or force, and try to adjust my body to make it more evenly distributed. Sometimes I can lean an imperceptible amount in one direction or another and it makes all the difference in the world. Taking little bits of time to focus on each of these small things helps me stay in stressful rope longer in the immediate situation, and also increases my awareness of my body so that in future play, I can recognize certain sensations and either alleviate them myself or alert my top if they become problematic.
     It's important to notice that a lot of what ze is doing is checking in with hir body and communicating with hirself in order to communicate with hir Top, if needed. _Spiral_ needs to know hir body well enough in order to do so.  I use a strategy that’s very similar: when in a stressful tie, I try to do the following:
  • Figure out where the most stress/pain I’m feeling.
  • Gauge on whether this is a good pain or a bad pain.  I usually determine this on whether it’s getting worse with time- a few seconds is all I need to know.
  • If it’s a good pain, I breathe through it.  I use Tifereth’s method of visualizing that I am putting the pain into a box in front of me, where I can see it.  This helps keep me calm.  If it’s a bad pain, I tell my partner as calmly as I can.

I hope that these tips are helpful to those looking to increase their stamina in bondage.  Granted, these aren’t the only ways up endurance, but they are ones that are constantly coming up.  If you have any other tips or tricks, please feel free to add to this list!

Happy bottoming :)

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