Our theme this week is warming up and cooling down so I wanted to focus on how this works within a D/s play relationship. These thoughts are based on my own experience so should be taken as suggestions only, as different things will work for different people. However, in my opinion, just like with exercise, a warm up or build up to a scene will really add to the experience, as will having some sort of cool down or aftercare.

During exercise, a warm up gradually revs up your cardiovascular system by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. Warming up may also help reduce muscle soreness and lessen your risk of injury. Similarly within a scene, building up or providing some sort of notice of what you plan to do will aid a submissive with being in the right mindset and allow the physical responses to come more easily. It will also enhance the emotional connection between you and allow an increase in trust.

Creating a sense of anticipation is also really important as it can keep the sub feeling aroused and expectant. At the same time they may be nervous and excited which will mean that they are thinking about what is going to happen. This will not only arouse them but also heighten the senses so that when play begins, they are highly attuned and responsive. Being prepared mentally will also mean that they are less likely to have an issue with negative triggers.

A build up can take a variety of forms and within play, couples will reveal more or less information depending on what works for them. It may be that the sub is given some instructions about how to prepare for the scene including things such as grooming in a particular way, choosing implements or toys, arranging props or selecting various items of clothing. The build up can start days before the scene, or it may be that it is left until much closer, but having some sort of warm up will really help.

Another thing that can work really well is making sure that the submissive waits in a certain position before play begins. This could be kneeling or something more vulnerable but it will allow them to focus their mind and think about what is going to happen. Inspections are another tool that can be used to make sure that the submissive is feeling vulnerable and also to allow the Dominant to set the dynamic for themselves as well as for their sub. A reminder of safewords and protocols will be another way of not just checking in, but also of reinforcing what is about to happen.

In exercise terms, cooling down after your workout allows for a gradual recovery of pre-exercise heart rate and blood pressure. Again, with play, this is a crucial part which, if missed out, can make things really difficult for both the top and for the bottom. During a scene the submissive may go quite deeply into their submissive space, as well as experiencing the effects of the chemical changes which take place in the brain, particularly if play is intense.

The rush of adrenaline and endorphins can send the submissive on a real high, so there can be a genuine chemical ‘come down’ to follow. Aside from that the submissive will likely have felt emotionally vulnerable at various point. The heightened trust in the Dominant will create an intense connection between the two and may lead to a feeling of neediness or dependency. This is something which can be a really positive part of play, provided the aftercare provided it is effective.

Aftercare may involve using soft blankets to make the submissive feel safe and warm as they come down from subspace. Having drinking water to hand is always a must and some people might like to have something special to eat, such as chocolate.  Close physical contact to the Dominant is probably the most important thing as this will reinforce the feeling of safety and the strong emotional connection. Part of aftercare may include talking through some of the play that took place and the emotions and feelings which go with it.

If a cool down doesn’t take place after exercise it can lead to sore or pulled muscles later on and in the same way, if aftercare is not given, it can lead to a feeling of being tired, physically unwell and emotionally upset both for the submissive and sometimes for the Dominant. These posts on sub drop and Dom drop deal with these feelings in more detail.  As long as aftercare is given, the aftereffects of an intense period of play will hopefully be minimised. As with anything, being aware of what can happen will always make it easier not only to prevent, but also to deal with if it does occur.

The sort of adrenaline high experienced during a BDSM scene has been compared before to the type of elation that people can feel after extreme exercise, such as participation in a marathon. While we are not going to be in training in the same way, some preparation will really help, as will some good aftercare following play.  The effects can be both physical as well as emotional so being ready mentally is really important as it will help you to have the best possible experience.