The problem with bootcamps is they only address the physical and, believe me, you don’t have to be a trained psychiatrist to spot quite a few peeps on them have “issues” other than morbid obesity and rampant cellulite. So when I heard that the spa brand Ila was pioneering Emotional Detox Retreats I thought it was an excellent idea… but I decided to skip the Before Car Crashes and just experience the Been Seen in A&E After versions instead and so I arrived on the final day of the first-ever five-day retreat.
Making my way into the spa at 7am, I saw a grown woman in a bathrobe hugging her teddy bear. I very nearly turned around. The good news was she wasn’t part of the retreat (even though she clearly needed to be), the even better news was Ila’s founder Denise Leicester has put together such a clever programme that when I met the group, they all seemed disappointingly normal – happy even – not a twitching eye between them. Leicester is a qualified nurse, aromatherapist, yoga teacher and yogic healer (she’s probably great at zumba too but I forgot to ask). Sitting next to her is like toasting by a warm fire, she just exudes nurturing vibes but, hey, she’s worked for the NHS so she knows how to dispose of a bed pan and this programme is practical as well as warm and fuzzy. It’s also deceptively simple.
Days start with Nordic walking – something I’ve always sneered at. If Nordic walking is exercise, lawn bowls must be a hazardous sport, right? But, actually, I loved it, have bought my own poles and believe it has vastly improved my back flexibility (…but it still isn’t “real” exercise). There are plenty of yoga and breathing sessions and fabulous Ila treatments (trust me, your limbs will feel like spaghetti after the Kundalini massage) as well as regular journaling (writing down your thoughts at key times during the day can highlight what you’re really worried about, as opposed to what you think you’re worried about) and sound healing (including chanting and singing that, apparently, the group loved). I was told to mime in my school choir so it may be just as well I missed them.
I’m told there were a few discreet tears but no agonisingly embarrassing Jerry-Springer moments because the nitty-gritty bits were dealt with in one-to-one appointments with Leicester, above, or her Emotional Freedom Technique counsellor (this is a method that combines tapping meridian points with positive affirmations). The group LOVED these sessions (I’ll write about EFT in a future blog). One woman told me she had a long-term smoking addiction but hadn’t had a cigarette since arriving. Seriously, I was astounded at how relaxed and content they all seemed and how confident they appeared about making changes.
What impressed me most though was the lack of smoke and mirrors. The retreat was steeped in good humour and commonsense, making suggestions that can easily be incorporated into a busy life (like having destressing baths and breathing properly). Leicester’s philosophy is all about creating zero drama, about finding little life lines that create an inner calmness and unblocking emotions that you may have buried and allowed to turn toxic. It’s not a crime if you can’t deal with a problem or painful memory but it is a shame if you never truly get over it. I think these retreats will prove incredibly useful for intelligent people who need a route map to get them through a difficult time. If that sounds like you, the next retreat is at Chewton Glen in Hampshire from September 23 and costs from £1,480pp all inclusive.