A suspension is the act of suspending one's body from hooks that have been put through body piercings. These piercings are almost always temporary and are performed just prior to the actual suspension.
The process is very delicate and should be done carefully by an experienced individual or professional in order to avoid serious injury. Suspension may require and often has a small group who handle preparations and the process itself. Suspension should never be attempted alone due to the risk of sustaining injuries or going into shock, which is potentially life threatening. The actual act of being suspended may take up a tiny portion of time compared to the time involved in preparation, though some people remain suspended for hours. If carried out properly, your body will be studied to decide the proper placement, number, and size of metal hooks which are pierced into the skin to lift the person off the ground. Multiple hooks are usually located around the shoulders, upper arm, and back, as well as around the knees (this depends on the position in which you want to be suspended). Finding the proper hook placement and number involves a great deal of skill in mathematics and an acute understanding of human anatomy and physiology, and well as the durability of the individual's skin. If the number of hooks are too few, the suspended individual's skin will be unable to withstand the body's weight and will rip. Also, the amount of weight each hook supports must be distributed evenly throughout the entire body - any imbalance risks injury. A block and tackle-like machine made for suspension is used and powerful rope that attaches to the hooks is used to slowly and carefully lift an individual a foot or two off the ground- where they may remain relatively motionless for a predetermined period of time. However, depending on the type of suspension, there may be a considerable degree of freedom of movement.
Suspensions can be used for meditation and gaining a higher level of spiritual fulfillment or awareness. To some it is a very sacred and respected practice and is done on a regular basis. Suspension can also be used as a symbolic tool and represents an important event in life- such as representing one's passing from childhood to adulthood or the bond two people may share. Just as easily, it can be used as entertainment or to 'show off'. Acrobatic actions may be performed, most commonly during a 'suicide' suspension.
The hooks used for a flesh suspension can be deep-sea fishing hooks (used for sharks, octopuses, etc), or those used for salmon, that have had their barbs removed. The piercing is performed with a body piercing needle followed by the modified hook, often 'thrown' as one unit— i.e. with the needle placed on the tip of the hook, which is then used to move the needle through the skin.
Once the hooks are in place, they are connected with rope or chain to a rig that can be winched up. It is vital that the hooks are attached to the rig in such a way that the weight is evenly distributed.
Types of Suspensions
A chest suspension, sometimes referred to as an O-Kee-Pa, is a suspension in which the hook(s) are placed in the chest. Typically two hooks are used for this type of suspension. This is named after the Okipa ceremony of the Mandan people, in which warriors had their chests pierced in order to gain favour with the spirits.
A coma suspension is a suspension in which the hooks are placed in the chest, torso and legs, usually in two rows, such that the suspendee is lying face up. The name of this position comes from the similar imagery as in the movie Coma.
A knee suspension is a suspension in which the hooks are placed in both knees. Typically four hooks are used for this type of suspension - two on either side of each knee.
A suicide suspension is a suspension in which the hook(s) are placed in the upper back, such that the suspendee is hanging upright. This type of suspension is named suicide due to its similarity in appearance to someone who has hanged him or herself.
A crucifix suspension is a variation on a suicide suspension in which hooks are also placed in the arms, such that the suspendee appears to be hanging on a cross, with his or her arms held out to the side.
A superman suspension is the opposite of a coma suspension - the hooks are placed in the back and legs, usually in two rows, such that the suspendee is lying face down. This type of suspension is named superman due to the similarity in appearance to Superman flying.
Other variations exist, utilizing anywhere from one to dozens of hooks.
Suspension in popular culture
- A famous example was demonstrated in the 1970 film A Man Called Horse.
- Criss Angel has twice been suspended for a show -- once for an attempt at a World Record time (the "superman suspension"), and once in an episode of the Mindfreak tv show (the "suicide suspension").
- Matt Zane has performed a suicide suspension twice while singing live on stage with his band Society 1.