• Rope bondage enthusiast Teneil Zerbst says it can be practised almost anywhere - even from a tree. (Teneil Zerbst)
The word bondage usually has connotations of latex, domination, and sexual deviancy. But some young Australians are turning to rope bondage for meditation and relaxation. DISCLAIMER: Seek professional advice in the art of Shibari; do not attempt independently.
By
Lucinda Kent

20 Apr 2016 - 11:58 AM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2017 - 11:48 AM

Teneil Zerbst's life looks pretty normal from the outside.

Office job, cute pet, happy relationship. She likes art and going to gigs.

But Teneil's preferred method of relaxation in her spare time is a little... unconventional.

Teneil likes to be tied up (or tie others up) in a style of bondage known as Shibari, based on a centuries-old Japanese practise that Samurai once used for restraining prisoners.

While there is definitely a sub-culture of rope bondage for sexual pleasure (Teneil's rope venue The Salon has a stall at Sexpo), she says getting tied up and hung in the air it is much more about relaxation than gratification.

"Shibari has deep origins in utility and practicality, but is also incredibly aesthetically pleasing and over the years has morphed into something of an art form; combining restraint, deep connection and power exchange between model (or bottom) and rigger (or top)," she said.

When she is 'modelling', Teneil is routinely bound and tied up in elaborately knotted and tied ropes, then suspended in the air for up to hours at a time.

"Being suspended is an incredible feeling. When I first started modelling, I was somewhat nervous about feeling constricted and helpless; claustrophobic even! But as soon as I left the ground, I felt an immediate sense of deep relaxation and a wonderful calm come over me," she says.

"Modelling is not the same for everyone, but I'm confident that most models at one time or another experience 'sub space' - a level of relaxation or high as a result of endorphin release through the body.

"It's something that is hard to explain to those who haven't experienced it, especially considering 'bondage' and 'relaxation' aren't terms that are usually associated!"

While Teneil was first introduced to Shibari through Brisbane's BDSM scene, she says the key to converting people to the wonders of the rope is to bring it to a more pedestrian environment.

She is just as likely to tie up a fully-clothed friend from a backyard tree on a Sunday afternoon as she is a scantily-clad bondage enthusiast in the dark of night at The Salon.

Teneil has introduced people from every part of her life to rope bondage, and has been surprised at how accepting people are of her unusual hobby.

"I've tied up my brother in front of my entire family at Christmas-time, and I have even suspended my mother in my family backyard," she says.

"My family and friends are incredibly supportive of what I do and I'm glad to be able to share it with them."

She says she hopes one day rope bondage will be as normal as yoga for relaxation.

"Being tied up is not something most people would think would be synonymous with being relaxing, but to me, there is a freedom in restraint that I have not felt anywhere else; not at yoga, not during traditional meditation, she says.

"I think what makes rope bondage different is that it is pure connection. It's connection between your mind and your body, and your body and your rigger. It is relaxing, challenging, meditative and intimate, whether you're tying yourself or being tied by someone else - even when you're tying someone else."

"I have two friends that I tie regularly, and I self-suspend every now and again. My passion, however, definitely lies in modelling for others. I love to fly!"