The 5,000 year history of the "art" comes down to physics, spirituality, and risk.
A woman lies face down on a massage table. She is tended to by five men wearing surgical masks and gloves. The men aren't wearing scrubs, though, and elaborate tattoos are visible on three of the men's arms. They insert large fishhooks under the woman's skin: in her calves, thighs, and lower, middle, and upper back. They work quickly and with practiced efficiency, grabbing a good sized piece of skin, pushing the hook into the skin until -- pop -- it slides in and out the other side. There is no blood. The men position the hook's bend around the freshly pierced hunk of flesh before moving onto another piercing.
The woman goes by the name Trigger. She posted a video montage of several of her body suspensions -- a form of body modification that involves hanging a human body by hooks attached to ropes -- to YouTube. In her video description, in an attempt to ward off hurtful comments from both the prejudiced and the Internet's resident ignoramuses, she wrote:
This is a little music video I made to footage of some of my suspensions. Some were hard and painful, some were fun & painful. Either way, I'm always grateful for the opportunities I had to do these suspensions and will never forget what an impact they have had and continue having on my life.
Enjoy this video, but please, no comments about how gross this is... if you don't understand it or agree with it, that's perfectly okay, but there is no need for disrespectful comments.
The rest of the video, after the piercings, shows Trigger suspended. She hangs in a number of positions: from hooks inserted into her upper back, known as a suicide suspension because the suspended person appears to have hanged him or herself; from the skin around her knees; and face down from hooks that run the length of her back and legs in what is called a Superman suspension. A suspension artist, who is responsible for setting up the hooks, ropes, and pulleys for the suspension, monitors the entire process. During some of Trigger's suspensions, a man hugs her tenderly and strokes her hair, rocking her body gently back and forth in the air. For the Superman suspension, she remains in a resting position. During one of her two suicide suspensions, she swings back and forth in a wide arc.