If you’re contemplating participating in an intimacy retreat, you can experience amazing benefits by broadening and enhancing your ability to enjoy, well, intimacy with yourself or with a partner. What might attending an intimacy retreat expose you to, and how can it benefit your well-being and your relationship?
“Some curricula may skew in the direction of mindfulness and general sexual wellness, others towards group sex and self-exploration, others towards couples therapy for couples looking to…recharge,” explains Eliza Dumais in her “What is a sex retreat” article for getmaud.com. “But more broadly speaking, the top-level ethos remains fairly steadfast: These are spaces committed to creating safe environs for folks to explore sexuality – for extended periods – removed from the drudgery of normal life.”
Of course, intimacy retreats offer individuals and couples an ideal and most likely idyllic vacation opportunity, especially those who are open-minded to the transformative benefits.
“Giving ourselves time to focus on sensuality — away from the day-to-day demands of real life — can offer us a chance to expand our sexual self-confidence,” says certified sex therapist, Sari Cooper, who helms NYC couples counseling and sex therapy hub, Center for Love and Sex, and sexuality coaching program Sex Esteem in an article in Vice. “On vacation, we reconnect with our bodies and our partners.”
I recently had a long conversation about intimacy retreats with Sarah Wilson Belzile, who considers herself an “embodiment guide, facilitator of growth experiences for your soul.” She has participated in, taught, facilitated and organized a full range of intimacy retreats for a couple of decades now. Ecosexuality and ecoeroticism are two favorite topics among her fascinating and impressive list of areas of expertise that includes yoga, climbing, cuddling, marketing, entrepreneurship, epiphanies, prayer, nature, nudity, and healing.
So why would someone want to take an ecoeroticism retreat, for example? Well, they might just enjoy the naturally stimulating setting of the woods, the mountains, a lake or the ocean, Belzile says. Or you can enjoy the sensual beauty and touch of a tulip or rose in a vase in your home or a philodendron plant in your home. But she cites a much deeper level, an erotic concept that can alter the mindset of a participant in an ecotourism retreat.
“We can learn to access eroticism from this pathway of relaxation instead of the more common pathway of excitement,” Belzile says. “Generally the way many of us have been conditioned is by porn and this highly aroused, exciting pathway towards connection, sex and eroticism. But there is this whole other pathway that’s available through relaxation and down regulating our nervous system and leading us to our sense of safety and connection. Eco-erotic practice invites us to practice that other way of being turned on.”
In March 2024, ecoeroticsm and this more serene pathway to sexuality will serve as the central aspect that Belzile will explore at an intimacy retreat in Bali. In partnership with Body Electric, she will co-facilitate the exotic and erotic retreat with a good friend and tantric sex expert, Tasneem Hamdani, The two will lead men, women and couples through a variety of sessions for “Your Tantric Nature: A Body Electric Eco-Erotic Retreat.”
Both have taught extensively for Body Electric, which offers a comprehensive selection of intimacy and sex retreats and in-person workshops for all genders and all levels of experience. Topics include everything from “Celebrating the Body Erotic” to “Exploring Tantra: Weaving Body & Spirit” to “Exploring Anal Pleasure.”
While weekend retreats can be interesting and a lot of fun, week-long retreats typically allow participants to attain a deeper level of experience and understanding of the topic of focus. “A week gives more time for integration and more time for developing relationships with the other participants and more of a sense of community,” Belzile relates. It’s tougher to create that deeper and sustained connection when you’re only dropping in for a weekend.”
While some retreats are loaded with training, instructive programming and social activities, Belzile believes having leisure time is beneficial for the participants to have time to process all they are learning and experiencing. For example, the session in Bali is structured to feature teaching sessions in the morning with leisure time in the afternoons so that people can take field trips, hike in the mountains, swim or read a good novel on the beach, or just hang out and relax.
“I’ve been to some retreats where it’s packed with activities, which is lovely, except our bodies need time to integrate in a deep way, so it can be like drinking from a fire hose, and there’s too much for our nervous systems to absorb,” she says. “Social time is an important way to integrate everything because when you are able to connect with another person and share what you are experiencing or make a new connection with a person it anchors learning because you are embodying that new awareness or skills in a new relationship with someone.”
When it comes to signing up for any retreat that involves eroticism and sexuality, there will be nerves involved. So participants need to discern what their comfort levels are and be aware of where to draw the line.
“Find a retreat that feels like it’s in your learning zone, where there is enough safety and predictability that you feel comfortable, but there’s still some nervousness and excitement around it,” Belzile advises. She adds that you should look to the retreat’s facilitator(s) to provide as much information as possible in advance to inform potential participants about what the schedule will be like, the exercises, the food, and the environment of the retreat center. They should also ensure the highest levels of consent so that everyone feels comfortable and safe at every point in the retreat.
“Nudity is definitely part of our events,” she informs. “So there’s always the option to take clothes off, but not everyone may want to be naked all the time or even at all. So, making a space where people who aren’t yet ready for that level of exposure or vulnerability still feel comfortable is an absolute requirement.” It’s important to do an internal check-in regularly – with yourself and your partner – to make sure you’re keeping a healthy schedule, and are at a good place within your comfort and growth zones.