Today entry comes from guest writer Bella Vendetta

During the ROP bbq this year one of our crew members Leo, had a crazy idea for a suspension. One he had already done before in fact. A six point armpit suspension. When he first mentioned it I thought it sounded like a horrible idea, but, My brother Leo is an extreme person in every way and since he had already done it before I didn’t want to try and stop him. In fact, after talking to him about it for an hour I was actually convinced that I wanted to try one. I kept pinching up the skin around My armpit to see how it felt, arching My body in the direction it would naturally go. It sort of felt like a yoga pose, and I’m a flexible and strong person so I was pretty convinced I could do it. I also, like Leo have My armpits tattooed so I wasn’t a stranger to unusual pain in this area of the body. Add to all of this the fact that I have for several years had a pretty intense armpit fetish, having Mine worshiped, causing pain to others, this just seemed like a rite of passage that would be really good for Me. But I like to meditate on suspensions for a while before I do them so the weekend of the ROP BBQ seemed like the wrong time, and besides I wanted to SEE one in person first.

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There was some concern among our crew members that this was a terrible idea, but the general consensus was that nobody was going to talk Leo out of doing this, and MOST people were cheering him on. Because of the fact that I was the organizer of the event I was off doing something most likely unpleasant and boring when Leo actually did his armpit suspension, I came in right when everyone was clapping and he was coming down. The aftermath of that suspension though was enough to convince Me to never, ever try it.

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As I mentioned, Leo is an extreme person, he pierced his own armpit, he pulled himself up with the rope and then kicked around like a maniac in a crazy arched position. Based on what he said, what people who saw it said and the photos I have seen, it looked intense and beautiful and electric. Have I mentioned that Leo is extreme? Because the next day he wanted to hang knees, which he did. And the day after that he went home and poured concrete and worked a construction job before going to work as a full time piercer running two shops in Salem MA.

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A week later I was in Salem visiting Leo and he showed Me the aftermath from the armpit suspension. Deep purple blue black bruises from his armpit down his ribs to his sternum. Gnarly, ugly, I’m making a face right now as I think about it. In addition to this he also had a lump. A little bump right on his sternum which had grown in size over the last week and was incredibly painful. He was in so much pain that he was having trouble breathing. I convinced My brother to go to the doctor, which he was not happy about. And so he went, and had some tests done and Leo, his family and the family that we call Rites of Passage spent several agonizing days awaiting the results as this lump got bigger and bigger. Leo barely slept and would call at all hours of the nigh wondering, was it a blood clot that had traveled? Was it related to the suspension? Was it a hernia? Was it cancer, was it an aneurysm?

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In the end, it was a torn abdomen muscle. He tore a muscle putting his body under all the stress and the awkward position of the suspension itself. He aggravated the already pulled muscle and inflamed it even more by doing the intense work he did the next days after. Months later he STILL has the torn muscle is not healed and is at risk for permanent damage. As I’ve mentioned, Leo had done this suspension successfully before, maybe more than anyone he knew the risks, and the healing time and he had the best of intentions. Seeing My brother with a lump STILL in the center of his chest is good reminder that just because you CAN doesn’t always mean you SHOULD.

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Now, I will not go on record as telling anyone what they should or should not do with their body. But I will go on record as saying that anytime anyone hangs in a new insane style and photos are released into the world that we have an obligation to be clear about risks, and there are many. As the head of Rites of Passage MA chapter I was in essence responsible for letting this suspension into the world. Whether or not I was present at it, it happened under My watch. And in the spirit of being accountable for the very life changing work we do both good and bad, I think it’s incredibly important to talk about it when things go badly for experimental suspensions.

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Oftentimes there is not much energy given to thinking about the AFTERCARE if suspensions. Not just caring for your wounds, but caring for your entire body, which has just undergone a trauma. When first timers want to hang with us I always insist that they bring someone to drive them to and from their suspension and that they take a day off of work, regardless of their job afterward. I’ve gotten some flack for this and some sad people have not been able to suspend with us because they were unable to take time off of work. Ten years ago this would have made Me sad because I wanted to be able to offer this experience to everyone seeking it, but now there are SO many other suspension groups someone can go to if they do not like our policies that it does not bother Me. That’s how much I care about suspension, and the people that we hang, I care about their experience so much that I want them to take a full day off to let their body adjust, rest and figure out what the hell just happened to them. Most people are just fine, or on cloud nine the day after a suspension, but the fact of the matter is that for a first timer, NO ONE knows what the reaction will be. Each suspension position is different and poses different risks and different things that need to be taken into account for healing. It’s easy for suspendees to get caught up in the moment, to feel so high after a suspension and feel so good that pouring concrete while you’re healing from an armpit suspension seems like a great idea. It is our job as practitioners and guides to make sure that the people we are giving this experience to are informed of all risks, side effects and given proper aftercare and checking up on. For Me, your suspension does not end when you’ve been bandaged and left the vicinity. Not even for people in our own crews who have hung a hundred times before, perhaps even MORE so for our brothers and sisters who sometimes forget that no matter how badass they are, things do go wrong and people do get hurt.

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Sometimes a suspension isn’t a very good idea and it’s OK to say no. Even when it makes people mad.

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I have been seeing so many beautiful photos of suspensions I would have never dreamed of. Crazy insane suspensions, upside down, scorpions, splits, faces the list goes on and on it at once makes Me proud to be a member of this community and filled with fear. So much thought goes into the “is this position possible” aspect of hook placement and how to rig, that I want to believe just as much thought is going into the “is this person physically capable of holding this pose, what is their background with strength, flexibility, yoga or stretching, how is this suspension going to affect this persons life as they heal?” aspect.

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Some of these poses are advanced level for yoga practitioners, and although you are not having to physically hold your body in a specific pose because the body is being held by hooks, it needs to be taken into account that we are asking the body to bend in a particular way which it may not be able to handle. Some very serious and lifelong injuries can certainly arise.

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As the suspension community keeps getting leaked into mainstream culture and become more and more accessible to the world at large we need to be mindful of what we release out into the world in our images and message. If the next person who sees a badass photo of this armpit suspension and wants to try it without fully thinking through the risks and gets hurt, I will feel responsible. We as a community have been very lucky with the small number of serious injuries related to suspension, but as the awareness grows, so do the risks. Hook wisely.