I accidentally went on a sex retreat – by myself
It started in Australia last summer when, under the influence of a few too many drinks, I booked a yoga retreat.
I had been travelling for a week, with six more to go, and I I don’t really know what I was looking for.
It wasn’t spiritualism I was after. As a yoga novice, I was mostly – innocently – keen to perfect a new skill.
However, instead of a relaxing few days of downward dogs and connecting with my chakras, several weeks later, I found myself on a couples’ intimacy course, noticeably missing one thing: the crucial other half.
Looking back, I should’ve wondered why my ‘single’s room’ was heavily discounted, or questioned the emphasis on ‘reconnection’ and ‘awakening the senses’ in the online brochure.
Still on a holiday high, I brushed aside the specifics and it wasn’t until I arrived at a remote eco-lodge, that I realised I had shipped myself off to a tantric sex retreat.
As the first to arrive, the pitying lodge owner explained the term ‘tantra’ to me over tea in his kitchen, before adding, ‘God, you should’ve heard the screaming last year!’ and leaving with a quick wink.
A South Asian philosophy that emerged between 300 and 400 CE, tantra has become synonymous with sex in the West. Defending free love ideals in the swinging sixties, fans included the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and later Sting, whose off-the-cuff comment about a seven-hour sexathon put tantra onto the public’s radar.
Hardcore followers, however, will insist sex is only a small part of the doctrine. Derived from the Sanskrit word ‘web’ or ‘to weave’ they emphasise connection – either with yourself or others.
Still, so much talk of sensuality was daunting for someone expecting a weekend of relaxation and with no phone reception, no car and no family and friends aware of my whereabouts, bolting wasn’t an option.
Admittedly, though, there was something titillating about the idea of revolutionising my sex life – albeit with a group of loved-up strangers. Embracing the situation, however intimately that might be, was my best shot at making it to Monday.
On the first night, the couples and I gathered on the floor, where under the glow of candles and haze of incense, we were handed pens and notebooks. One pair, both of whom were in their forties, had moved on from former marriages and were there to test the waters with someone new.
Sitting there by myself, however, I couldn’t help but be reminded of school, only we were studying pleasure points rather than the periodic table.
Later, group discussion on the ‘roadblocks to orgasm’ encouraged a roomful of strangers to dig deep into their past; pinpointing their difficulties in letting go. As the fifth wheel, no one called on me for answers so I was left in peace to untangle my own issues around trust, confidence and control that had suddenly been set in motion.
Raised in single-sex education, and a relatively stiff-upper-lipped household, this type of self-exploration was as many miles from my comfort zone as England is from Australia.
Even more so were the next day’s physical activities, which included trust falls and balancing poses and came under a branch of yoga called Acroyoga, which as the name suggests is closer to acrobatics or cheerleading.
We switched partners regularly, so I was saved the embarrassment of a solo show, but I never quite conquered the poses.
Maybe I would have felt more at ease if I was diving into the arms of a long-term partner rather than a total stranger.
Strangely, my biggest hurdle was the simplest: eye contact. Partner meditation required a couple to look into each other’s eyes, place their hands on one another’s heart and breathe deeply.
Practiced correctly, your heart rate should slow and breathing sync, until a state of togetherness is reached. But staring into someone’s eyes can be excruciatingly intimate, and 10 minutes of stifling laughter, or blinking profusely felt like an eternity.
Parts of the retreat did edge on the erotic – we were each issued dark chocolate, feathers and oils as props to remind us how to stoke the senses.
But before imaginations run wild, the takeaway from the weekend was support rather than swinging. In 72 hours there wasn’t even a nod to the touchstone of tantric taboo, the Kama Sutra, an ancient Sanskrit text and inventory of sexual positions.
As the youngest by far I learned a lot from the older couples. Bedroom communication, body confidence and sex-positivity are buzz-words we love to spout in theory but can struggle to put into practice. I was surrounded by people who had healthy relationships, and put aside time to check-in with one another and constructively build on their issues.
In many ways, it was a blessing that by whatever twist of fate – or alcohol – I ended up alone.
Connection doesn’t have to be sexual, or shared; it can be deeply personal. Despite going away to be by myself, I had spent the majority of my trip to Australia drawn to other people, for the sake of being social. Returning to Sydney from my mountain bubble, I craved my own company, which for once I was genuinely happy in.
Sober and prepared, I would go again in a heartbeat. Three nights wasn’t nearly enough to detach myself from society’s rigid rules surrounding sexual etiquette and female desire. But now I have the basis, and if in doubt, the extremely detailed diagrams to keep going.
Source: Read Full Article