Warming Up for Bondage - bondage basics

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by fuoco
Fuoco is a rope performer, a circus aerialist, and an instructor who has performed and taught all over the world. Visit RopesOnFuoco.com to learn more.

This chapter isnít by any means a comprehensive guide to warming up for bondage. Tere are all sorts of stretches and exercises you can do to get your body ready for rope ó so if you have a warm-up that works for you already, thatís great! But if you feel a bit lost as you look around your local dungeon and see bottoms stretching and moving around in preparation for their rope scenes, then this chapter is for you.

Try to test out these stretches at home before you use them before a scene. Some of them can be very challenging and take a bit of practice. Pay close attention to the images and alignment cues, and always stretch only until you feel a nice stretching sensation.

Warning: Donít stretch too deeply into anything that feels painful, and always back out of any stretch or position that feels like itís causing injury.

If you have questions about any of the stretches here or feel any pain while trying them out, ask a yoga teacher, a personal trainer, or some other movement coach to check your form and see how you might adapt them for your body.

Why Warm Up at All?

The main purposes of warming up for a rope scene are to improve your experience (scene duration, comfort, etc.) and to prevent injury. We want to increase blood flow to our tissues (both muscles and joints) and "wake up" some of the muscles that we might not have used throughout the day. If you spend a lot of time seated at a desk, itís highly likely that blood flow to certain areas of your body decreases throughout the day. And this is normal. Your body doesnít need every single muscle to be functioning optimally to sit in a chair for an extended period of time. But it can greatly benefit from restoring that blood flow if you want to roll around on the floor in bondage or hang from the ceiling from a few pieces of rope!

Bondage, especially suspensions, can be a strenuous activity requiring a lot of effort. (Obviously were not talking about something like a nice decorative chest harness or your wrists tied gently to the bed here.) To make strenuous bondage - where youíll be put in taxing positions or those requiring stamina - more fun and to reduce your risk of injury, youíre going to want to make sure that all of the muscles and joints involved are healthy, happy, and experiencing lots of good blood flow.

What Not to Do

The point of your warm-up is not to become more fexible fve minutes before a rope scene. I see bottoms doing this all the time: They prepare to be tied up by sitting in the splits or pushing into their backbend as much as they can. But stretching like that - for the purpose of developing flexibility - is a totally different practice, and could actually decrease your ability to use your muscles effectively during your rope scene. Remember that all were trying to do here is wake up the muscles and get the blood flowing. In fact, a well-rounded pre-scene sequence may even take less time and be gentler than you think!

If you do want to enhance your flexibility outside of pre-scene warming up, by the way, talk to a yoga teacher, a dance teacher, a circus teacher, or some other type of movement specialist. Some cities even have dedicated flexibility coaches. Just remember that flexibility training is different than warming up for a scene.

So how should you be warming up? Briefly and gently moving your major joints through a range of motion, and then stretching the important muscle groups, is a great idea. This combination of easy muscle activation and passive stretching should be enough to get the blood flowing and the muscles working.

Te Exercises

The major areas Iíd encourage rope bottoms to focus on are the shoulders, spine, and hips. Letís talk about each of those spots.

Te Shoulders

Warming up the shoulders is super important, especially if youíre going to do a bondage scene that uses any harness that includes the arms. Takate-kotes (box ties), strappados and armbinders, teppous - all of these ties put a lot of load on the shoulders, and itís important that the shoulder joint and all of the muscles that support it are warm and in good working condition. The two warm-ups below are followed by some shoulder stretches.


1. Teacups

My favorite way to get the shoulders warm is through an exercise called Teacups. Bring your elbows in toward your waistline with your palms up (A1). Your forearms should be parallel with each other and with the floor. Now youíre going to imagine that in your upturned palms, youíre holding teacups filled with very-hot tea. Try not to spill your tea as you do this exercise!

First bring your arms out in front of you, then move them upward and back in a wide circle (A2), so that your hands end up over your head (A3). Now for the tricky part: With the palms continually facing up, move the hands down and in front of you in a swimming motion (A4 and A5) until your fingertips are pointing forward and your arms are parallel to each other and the floor again A6). Youíve probably spilled tea all over yourself by this point. Donít worry! Itís imaginary, so just give yourself a refill and try again. I his time, try to focus on moving only your shoulders. Try not to bend backward or forward-even if that means spilling more tea.

When youíve done this two or three times in one direction, try moving in the other direction. Youíll start in the same spot (A7), but this time wing your elbows out and rotate your hands in (A8) so that your fingertips point to your waistline. Keep rotating as the palms spin under (A9) and move to the front of your body A10). Your arms will come overhead from front to back All) and spiral out (A12), making their way back to where they started A13).

2. Scapular Push-Ups

Make your way into a push-up position on your toes or on your knees. Youíre going to try to achieve the motion of a small push-up, without bending your arms at all. Keep your torso tight (no sagging hips or butt stuck up in the air), and then move your shoulder blades toward each other (Bl), like youíre trying to pinch a pencil between your shoulder blades on your back. Ihen push into the floor and push the shoulder blades away from each other hard B2).Try-doing two sets of eight of these.


Now that your shoulders are warm, letís stretch them out a little bit. Most rope bondage harnesses that load the shoulders do so with the shoulders internally rotated. Most shoulder stretches stretch the shoulders in external rotation. So we want to make sure that were doing both. If you donít know the difference, then do these two exercises:

1. Bring your arms down by your sides and then rotate the hands so that the palms are facing forward and your thumbs are pointing out, away from your body. I his is external rotation. If you turn your hands so that your palms are facing to the back and your thumbs are pointing in toward your waistline, this is internal rotation.

2. Now do the same thing but bring your arms straight up over your head. Turn the palms away, so that the pinkies rotate in toward each other. This is actually external rotation! Donít believe me? Keep your hands in exactly the same position and bring the arms back down to your sides. Youíll be right where you startedówith your palms facing forward.

1. External-Rotation Shoulder Stretches

Start with gently stretching each shoulder in external rotation (C1 and C2). You should remember these from gym class. Donít throw your arms into position or tug on yourself too hard. Slowly and gently pull your arm into each stretch and hold it there for about five breaths. Then switch arms and repeat. The second exercise stretches the triceps as well as the shoulder.

2. Internal-Rotation Shoulder Stretches

Now for a few internally rotated stretches. Face a wall and place one straight arm on the wall, up at about the two oíclock position (D1). Think about pushing he very top of the shoulder (where your collarbone and shoulder meet) in toward the wall as you turn your body away from the wall, over your extended arm (D2). You should feel a stretch through the front of the shoulder and maybe into the chest.

Now do the same thing again, but with a bent elbow that sits at three oíclock (D3 and D4). If this feels OK and you want more of a stretch, then move the butt down toward a seated position (D5).

Switch to the other arm and repeat both exercises for the other shoulder.

3. Partner Shoulder Stretch

Stretching with a partner can be very effective and a fun way to start connecting. Kneel straight up in front of your partner with your arms out behind you and your palms up. Have your partner place their palms under your palms and onto your forearms and brace you (El) while you sit your butt down to deepen the stretch as far as is comfortable (E2).

SatineAngelic has quite flexible shoulders! Donít worry if your stretch doesnít look like hers in El and E2 - just go until you feel a gentle stretch, and remember to communicate with your partner.

Te Spine

Weíre going to gently warm up and stretch the muscles that support the spine all in one go. Warming up and stretching the spine require several sorts of movements: forward bending, backbending, side bending, and twisting.

1. Neck Stretch: Side to Side

It's a good idea to warm up the spine from the top down, so start with your neck. Let your body be still and comfortable (try not to bend into these stretches too much - keep everything below your neck neutral), and drop one ear toward your shoulder (F) and then the other. If youíd like to make this stretch a bit deeper, flex the opposite hand and push it toward the floor.

2. Neck Stretch: Front and Back

Slowly look up (G1) and then look down, moving your chin toward your chest. Make sure that as you look up, you feel like youíre reaching your jaw toward the ceiling and not crunching your spine at the base of your neck : G2).

3. Cat-Cow

Some Cat-Cows to follow this up should feel nice and will increase blood flow to the spine and supporting tissue. Come to a tabletop position (Bharmanasana, or Table Pose, in yoga), with your palms directly under your shoulders. Keep your arms straight and strong as you inhale and let your belly come down to the floor - imagine a cow udder (H1). Then as you exhale, push the floor away, feel your shoulder blades move away from each other, and round your back like a scared cat (H2 ). Do this a few times, trying to move on the inhalation and exhalation.

You can do this at the wall as well. H3 shows the cow position, and H4 shows the cat position.

4. Side Stretch

Standing poses are a great way to gently stretch your muscles while activating others, since you need to balance and support your weight in these positions. Stand with your feet about hip width apart, and then reach up overhead and grab one of your wrists (LI). Pull on that wrist as you push your hips in the opposite direction (L2). Try to imagine that youíre side bending in between two panes of glass, so you donít tilt forward too much or bend backward too much.

Do this for five slow, steady breaths, then repeat on the other side.

Repeat any of these exercises if your spine still feels tight and stiff, or add any spinal exercises of your own that you know and like. Sun Salutations are an excellent way to warm up the spine. You can fnd many great video tutorials on the Internet, or head over to your local yoga studioóitís way easier to learn the whole fow in motion in person with an instructor.

Te Hips/Lower Body

We use our hips and the muscles in our lower body a lot in rope. Hanging in a hip harness will feel much better if youíve moved your hips through a range of motion already. And your ability to support your weight in a futomomo suspension will be greater if youíve made time for a good warm-up. So last but certainly not least, letís warm up the hip fexors and lower body.


Weíll just do one warm-up before getting into the stretching, but it has three parts.

Leg Pulses

Use a pole, wall, or chair for stability if you like. Bring your leg in front of you and lift it as high as you can while still keeping your hips level (J1 and J2). Keep the standing leg firm and strong, but donít lock your knee. Using very small movements, pulse the leg up 10 times, and then hold it up a tiny bit higher than where you started for 10 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Doing this without support (J1) will help you work on your balance, but hold on to something (J2) if you need the extra stability.

Next, do the same thing (10 pulses and a 10-second hold) with your leg out to the side (J3). Make sure not to raise your leg above hip level (J4).

Lastly, do the same thing (10 pulses and a 10-second hold) with your leg extended out behind you (J5). Keep your hips square and try not to arch your back too much when the leg is behind you. J6 shows uneven hips.


Lower body feeling warm? Letís start stretching the hips, hamstrings, and quadriceps.

1. Easy Lunge (Hips)

Make sure that your forward knee is stacked over your ankle, to avoid knee problems, and that the tops of both hip bones are pointing forward (K1) . In other words, if you were to look at your profile in a mirror, you would want to see your shinbone in a straight line, not at an angle (K2), and see only your silhouette, and not the front of your pelvis or butt cheeks. Moving the knee past the ankle, as in K2, is no good for that knee joint. My hips are also open toward the camera in K2, and you can see my pelvisóalso not good.

You can place your hands on the floor, rest them on your forward knee, or place them on your hips. Whichever you choose, lower your pelvis toward the floor until you feel a gentle stretch through the back hip and the quadriceps of the back leg.

2. Half Split (Hamstrings)

From the lunge position, push the forward leg straight until the hips are stacked over the back knee (L1).

You should feel it stretching out the hamstrings, the muscle that runs down the back side of the front leg.

Try to maintain a flat back and bend forward, thinking about lining up your sternum with your shinbone. As with the lunge, keep both hip points pointing forward. If it helps, you can think about pushing your back hip toward your forward knee.

Notice in L1 that both hip points are forward, and that thereís a straight vertical line from my knee to my hip. In L2 my back hip is opening up and Iím sitting my butt down instead of keeping it stacked.

3. Quadriceps Stretch

The quadriceps make up the big muscle group on the top part of the leg (above the knee). You can do this stretch on the floor or standing. If youíre doing it on the floor, be very careful to go only as far as is comfortable, even if that means leaning only an inch back.

Kneel down with your knees close and your feet a bit wide. If this position hurts your knees at all, you can bring your feet together so that they rest under your butt - or try the standing version. Start to sit down in between your feet and lower your upper body down (M1). Maybe you just lean back a bit, maybe you lower down to your elbows, or maybe you go further toward the floor or lie fully on your back (M2). You can have your hands at your sides or on your chest, or bring them overhead.

If youíre all the way lying down and still donít feel a stretch, focus on the arch in your lower back (M3) and try to flatten it out, minimizing the distance between your lower back and the floor (M4).

Standing variation: Use a pole, wall, or chair to stabilize yourself. Reach back for your foot behind you, grab the ankle or the top of the foot on the same side as your hand, and pull it gently toward your butt (N).

Try to keep the spine neutral - it may want to arch into a backbend here.

Donít worry about getting your foot as close to your butt as mine is in N. Focus more on keeping your spine neutral (maybe even tucking your pelvis a little bit) while you gently pull the foot closer toward your body.

To Complete Your Warm-Up

Hopefully now your muscles are ďawake,Ē you feel a bit looser, and your blood is fowing nicely. A complete warm-up, however, starts well before youíre eyeing your partner's ropes in anticipation. Drink lots of water and eat the right amount of good food for you throughout the day beforehand. (Eating too much or too heavy a meal right before getting tied up can make you feel sluggish or nauseous, while eating or drinking too little can make you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or just distracted.) Avoid drugs and alcohol, which can impair your judgment in all areas - and alcohol can dehydrate you as well. And especially if youíve been drinking lots of water, hit the bathroom before you hit the ropes.

Consider bringing a yoga mat or blanket with you to the playspace so that youíll have a clean surface to warm up on too. And having a rope bottoming bag with snacks, water, medications, and anything else that will make the experience better or help keep you safe is a good idea.

And to reiterate, please do find someone in your community to talk to - a yoga teacher, a personal trainer, a movement coach - face to face if you have any questions about anything in this chapter. Everyoneís body is different, and some of these stretches and exercises may work better for you than others, or you may benefit from modifications not shown here. A professional you see in person will be able to assess where youíre at and suggest modifications or alternate exercises to better suit your needs.


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