Pictured: a bathroom at the luxury Shh in Dorset Unless you've been hiding under a rock you'll have heard of Shh, a new women-only sensual healing retreat which is held at a secret location in Dorset. Female sexuality is all the rage these days so an uber-posh retreat offering, amongst other things, a round the clock sexologist was always going to grab headlines.
Yet after chatting with the founders Vikki van Someren and Lucy Arrowsmith it becomes clear the programme they have devised goes far deeper than simply reinventing your sex life. It feels very zeitgeisty, a cutting-edge healing concept which puts the modern day malaise of female stress, exhaustion and dwindling sexuality right at the top of its agenda. Pictured below Vikki van Someren and Lucy Arrowsmith Vikki, previously a fast paced media sales exec (she was group commercial director at Harper Collins), attributes the 'Fifty Shades factor' to a new willingness to discuss the previously taboo subject of women's sexuality. She says: "Fifty Shades paved the way and opened doors for us. We were the early adopters of this new freedom to talk about sexuality and how it fits into the work/life balance. We wanted to create something where we focus on how we feel as women." Shh is the direct result of what Vikki and Lucy, previously a personal trainer, call their 'personal journeys.' A few years ago Vikki found the sexual abuse she suffered as a child coming back to her in her dreams. Lucy, a former British swimmer, suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which impacted on her relationships and desire for intimacy. Both sought intense therapy from the Hoffman Process and found that, while helpful, afterwards it left them feeling a little adrift. The lightbulb moment came when they decided to create a sanctuary which would focus entirely on holistic healing for women. From the moment you walk in to a Shh retreat (the location kept strictly secret to foster a feeling of privacy and intimacy ) everything is designed to invoke the senses - flowers, candles, zillion thread count bed linen, beautiful bath oils; essentially it's female heaven. The programme is based on 3 principles - Sensuality, Healing and Harmony (hence the name Shh). The retreats take eight women at a time with nine therapists working one to one to create a bespoke experience for each. Through a range of therapies including sex and relationship counselling, Transformational Breathing, reiki, sensual healing, acupuncture, somatic experiencing and neuro linguistic programming, guests are shown how to overcome trauma and anxiety and explore their sensual potential. This is not a crash course in the Kama Sutra, rather an antidote to our push-button, quick fix, pornography-saturated times. At Shh you are taught how to internalise your sexuality, the emphasis is on taking time, exploring touch and nurturing all the senses. Getting back in touch with your femininity is key says Vikki, who, like many women, spent much of career banging the boardroom table and shouting to be heard. She says: "In their 20s and 30s women think they are having it all, looking good, working hard and generally being superwomen but the reality of all those different roles is that it takes a huge toll on your sensuality. We don't invest in ourselves on a deeper, more emotional level." Through her work as a personal trainer Lucy found women were almost unanimously obsessed with their exterior form while neglecting what was going on inside. She says: "I noticed that many of the women who came to me in the past put all their happiness on being a size 8 or 10 but actually it doesn’t make them happy for long." Vikki says: "We believe the secret to healing ourselves is to let go of emotional traumas held in the body that we may not even know are in there holding us back." Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is used to uncover and release old traumas or fears and to encourage self-acceptance and a deeper sense of self love. Somatic Experiencing is another groundbreaking treatment which releases trauma-based energy blocks. A loss of interest in sex is a common theme amongst the women who come to Shh but it is often a side effect of a deeper underlying issue. Over four to seven days of guided talk and intensive bodywork therapy, women are helped to reconnect with their inner selves and unlock their sensuality. Vikki says: "We work with them to boost their self esteem and self confidence and to find the beauty within themselves. But we're not whoo whoo at all. Simply put we help women their glow back." The next Shh retreat is in March. For more information please visit www.sensualhealingharmony.com or call 0203 691 8755