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Ayahuasca Retreats: The Ultimate 2024 Guide (Safe, Legal)

Begin Your Journey

You've heard the life-changing stories, you've done the research, and you're convinced.

You are ready.

You're excited, you're nervous, and maybe you're even a little scared. 

But you've decided. You're in. You're ready for an ayahuasca retreat.

Awesome, we are excited for you. If you approach this correctly, this could represent a massive turning point in your life.

Now, let's take a bit of a step back. An ayahuasca retreat is not REALLY what you are looking for. 

What you probably want is improvements to your quality of life:

  • You want vibrant physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and to let go of any limiting beliefs and behaviors, and past trauma.
  • You want to be happy, to feel connected, to have great relationships, and live each moment with more joy, love, and peace.
  • You want clarity. You want to wake up each morning motivated and excited, doing work that you care about, that adds to the world, and that brings abundance for you and your loved ones. 
  • You want to be inspired to accelerate your evolution and create your dream life.

If these are the things you're looking for, then you're in the right place.

In this context, we would encourage you to think of an ayahuasca retreat as a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals. With the right guidance, preparation, and integration, an ayahuasca retreat can provide invaluable healing, insights, and lessons. However, much more than “just a retreat” is required to help you to realize and sustain its transformational benefits.

In a nutshell, here is what the science tells us about the benefits of ayahuasca and plant medicine more broadly:

  • It is proven to improve your "joy for life"
  • It is proven to enhance your "relationship to the sacred / spirituality”
  • It does not remove "feelings of negativity / toxicity"

If you consider the results of this research, it makes perfect sense. If there was a miracle cure that fixed all our problems, we would be robbed of self-determination in our evolution. 

It would be like winning a prize for a marathon you didn't run - an empty, tasteless victory.

What would be the point of life itself? 

So an ayahuasca retreat can help us realize our joyous nature and deepen our spiritual connection, but it cannot and does not do the mental and emotional work for us. That is our path to walk, our work to be done in this life.

Ayahuasca group therapy retreat

If you remember just one thing from this article, remember this: that alongside plant medicine like ayahuasca, you need to do mental and emotional work to sustain an elevated consciousness and to gain benefits.

There are now hundreds of thousands of people out there partaking in plant medicine ceremonies and skipping the mental and emotional work. The result is that the overwhelming majority are missing out on the deeper breakthroughs and healing benefits that are possible. 

They're having psychedelic experiences, rather than transformational experiences. If this resonates with you and you'd like to learn more about consciousness then we'd invite you to have a sneak preview of some of content from our 7-week life accelerator:

If you'd like to go deeper and understand more about how to benefit from plant medicine, watch our webinar.

If this resonates with you, you're ready for a big shift in your life, and you'd like expert guidance to prepare and integrate your experience, you're coachable, and ready to do deep mental and emotional work, request a complimentary Discovery Call.

This article has been split in to three parts, based upon where you are in your journey:

  1. Action - You're in decision-making mode. You want to know what you need to do to choose an excellent experience and benefit from an ayahuasca retreat.
  2. Consideration - You're on the fence. You're not quite ready to make a decision, and you'd like to know more about how to decide whether or not an ayahuasca retreat is right for you.
  3. Information - You'd like to understand more about ayahuasca, the benefits, the experience, potential challenges, and different types of retreats available.


Action - benefiting from an ayahuasca journey

This section provides practical guidance to help you make quality decisions - it does not provide specific instruction on preparation, the ayahuasca diet, integration, etc. Your guide and retreat center will do that with you.

Step 1: Acknowledge that you need guidance

Here's the truth: we all have mental and emotional blind spots. If you didn't have any, it's unlikely that you would be considering an ayahuasca retreat. But we already discussed that ayahuasca isn't necessarily going to help you identify your mental and emotional blind spots or "do the work" for you, so, what to do? 

You need guidance. A coach or therapist who has guided hundreds or thousands of clients through a successful transformation with plant medicine. Understanding that you can significantly benefit from this outside support is of fundamental importance, as it opens you up to accepting outside help. 

If you understand and agree with this, we would recommend anchoring this in your mind by saying the following out loud: "I will find a qualified guide to help me with my ayahuasca preparation and integration". Yes, seriously.

Regardless of whether this is your first retreat or tenth retreat, you will be breaking new ground. Find a trusted guide. You will be grateful that you did.

Step 2: Choosing a guide

Take your time, don't rush.

Have multiple consultations with guides that you feel may be a good fit, and then choose the one that resonates with you best. 

Finding the right coaching and/or therapeutic guidance makes all the difference.

A guide will help you do the necessary preparation and integration work before and after a retreat, both of which are fundamental to big breakthroughs and sustaining the benefits.

Here's a few considerations to guide your selection of a prospective guide:

  • How many clients have they guided?
  • Did the guide ask good questions during your conversation? Do you feel like they really understand you? Did they bring you to new places in your self-understanding?
  • Do you trust them? Why or why not?
  • Does the guide have clients they think are similar to you, and that they've guided through a successful transformation? Ask about the transformation. Are they willing to let you speak to them directly?
  • Has the guide successfully elevated their consciousness? Ask questions to see whether there are low-level thinking patterns or emotions like judgment, negativity, or pride.
  • Find out a little about the guide - does it feel like they have a happy, fulfilling life? 
  • Would you look forward to another conversation with them, or not really? When you find the right guide, it's likely your relationship will last for years, so think deeply on this one.

Step 3: Choosing an ayahuasca retreat center / ayahuasca experience

Ok, so you've chosen a guide, someone who you trust, and they are going to help you with mental and emotional work before and after the retreat. Now it's time to choose an ayahuasca retreat - the main event.

Here's a few things that are under-appreciated, and that you will benefit from knowing:

  • The number of ayahuasca retreats has exploded in the past decade. Given the complexity of working with ayahuasca, there is high variability in the quality of work being done.
  • A beautiful property or long-standing ayahuasca retreat center does not mean the healing work is being done to a high standard.
  • Unhelpfully, you will also notice that nearly all the ayahuasca retreats are rated as 5-stars on the various retreat websites (seriously, have a look for yourself).
  • This is because it’s common to feel great after a retreat (thus the 5-star ratings), and then "back to square one" a few weeks later once you return to the context of everyday life. This can often lead to a cycle of years of retreat attendance with limited improvements to quality of life (unable to remove the negativity).
  • It is difficult for the untrained eye (which makes up the vast majority of retreat participants) to discern quality, thus perpetuating this cycle.
  • When facilitating for those that are relatively new to ayahuasca, experts generally prefer to facilitate small groups or private experiences, rather than groups of 15-20+. This allows for better energetic management of the experience, and less distractions for the clientele. 
  • Stories of abuse are far too common, even at well-known locations. Do your own research.

You might be wondering - what the hell is going on here? You’re not alone. 

The truth is, with the gap we have between science (proven benefits) and policy (plant medicine not legal), tens of thousands of hopeful people are travelling to visit shamans and mama ayahuasca in the Amazon in legal locations across Central and South America such as Tulum, Costa Rica, the Sacred Valley outside Cusco and Iquitos in Peru, or deep in the Amazon rainforest. The result is a bit of a wild-west, an ayahuasca tourism gold rush.

There is a massive short-supply of healing experts in this field. As demand has sky-rocketed, many perfectly nice, well-intentioned, and yet inexperienced facilitators are now hosting retreats. 

Here's what we would recommend a retreat participant to consider:

  • Ask about safety. As part of any experience, you should go through an in-depth medical and psychological screening process, and protocols should be in place in case of challenges.
  • Understand the experience / qualifications of the staff and healer. Who will facilitate your experience? How long have they been doing this work? Decades is best. 
  • Understand what will happen during an ayahuasca ceremony - compare and contrast a few different options to understand how the healing work will take place.
  • Whether or not a shamanic experience is right for you. Shamanism is a completely different cosmology, a different way of looking at the universe. Also that most shamans don't speak English, so there is a limited opportunity to communicate. There is no right or wrong here, but it is worth recognizing that immersing yourself in another cosmology can be a challenge in of itself.
  • Think about what group size you would be comfortable in, or whether you would prefer a private experience.
  • If your finances allow it, consider going private. Massive progress can be made in a short space of time when you are priority number 1, 2, and 3.


Consideration - should I attend an ayahuasca retreat?

Ok, so you'd like some guidance to help you decide whether an ayahuasca journey is right for you. Here is what we would recommend:

Research the potential benefits, then determine YOUR motivation

Here's a few categories of potential benefits to think about / read about:

  • Physical and emotional health
  • Spirituality and spiritual awakening 
  • Relationship to self
  • Relationship to others
  • Creativity and growth
  • Cognition
  • Clarity of purpose
  • Sense of belonging and connectedness 
  • Elevated consciousness

As ayahuasca and other plant medicine grows in popularity, it is important that you don't get sucked up in the excitement and participate in a retreat because you've heard it's transformative, or because others recommend it.

Ask yourself why? Be clear on why you would like to attend a retreat.

Invest the time and energy to do your own research and develop your own healing, growth, and spiritual motivations. If you do decide to attend a retreat, this will prove a valuable input to your preparation process.

Know the challenges that can arise

We highly recommend that you read about the challenges that can arise during an ayahuasca retreat - you can read more about the potential challenges the ayahuasca experience in a more in-depth post HERE.

Listen to your Intuition

Now that you have your own rational reasons for attending a retreat, and understand the potential healing benefits and challenges, it's time to tap into your intuition.

From what you've seen, heard, and read, what do you feel? Do you feel this is something that is right for you? Is now the time? If so, why? Why not? Listen to your intuition.

Many people claim that mother ayahuasca medicine "called to them", and that circumstances aligned guiding them to attend a retreat.

Once you've developed your motivations and developed a view on whether or not an ayahuasca retreat is right for you, we would recommend finding an expert to speak with ask them if/how a retreat can help you achieve your goals, and to have a conversation about your readiness – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.


Information - Tell me more about the Ayahuasca Experience

You'd like to know more about the ayahuasca experience: the ayahuasca vine, the ayahuasca brew, the ayahuasca ceremony, ayahuasca healing, what a shaman is, and what generally happens at an ayahuasca retreat center.

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is generally a reference to the ayahuasca tea, brewed from the ayahuasca vine (banisteriopsis caapi vine), and the chacruna plant (psychotria viridis). Both of these medicinal plant grow in the Amazon rainforest. 

Naturally, ayahuasca can also be a reference to the ayahuasca vine itself. To read the in-depth version of "What is Ayahuasca?" read our in-depth blog here.

What is an Ayahuasca Shaman?

In the context of ayahuasca, a shaman or “one who knows” is a spiritual practitioner able to channel and direct energies for the purpose of healing, often while in an altered state of consciousness. 

Ayahuasca shamanism has a broad range of traditions throughout Central and South America, predominantly centered around the Amazon basin, including:

  • Shipibo tradition of Peru
  • Shuar tradition of Ecuador
  • Tukano traditions of Colombia
  • Various Brazilian Amazonian traditions

The Shipibo shaman tradition of Peru is one of the better-known, with many of their shamans travelling internationally for retreats and ayahuasca ceremonies. 

What happens in an Ayahuasca Ceremony?

An ayahuasca ceremony is typically led by a shaman or experienced practitioner. While each tradition has its own rituals, a healing ceremony generally brings together a group of people in a circle or semi-circle to drink the ayahuasca brew.

After 30-40 minutes, it is common for feelings of nausea to set in, and powerful visions begin, leading participants on healing journeys into the spirit world. Physical purging is common, and the experiences themselves can vary, from the euphoric to the terrifying, into the light and into the dark. We often relive powerful memories to help us understand and heal our past, receive salient insights to improve our future, and to connect to ourselves, mother earth, and the universe more broadly in a deep and meaningful way. 

To read a more detailed account of the challenges and experiences of an ayahuasca ceremony, you can read more HERE.

What happens in an Ayahuasca Retreat?

If you’re looking for a spiritual retreat, ayahuasca retreats are certainly amongst the most powerful. They are generally hosted in beautiful and quiet locations, a sort of “holistic sanctuary” away from the buzz of everyday life.

There is a strict dieta (not to be confused with a master plant diet) to be followed two weeks prior to such a retreat, whereby we must abstain from:

  • Sex
  • Oil, salt, sugar, spices
  • Specific fruit such as papaya, mango, watermelon
  • Alcohol, chocolate
  • Pork, red meat, and seafood

For those experienced with ayahuasca, it’s common to begin preparation even months ahead of their retreats – doing more meditation, yoga, and being more conscious about the foods they eat. 

During ayahuasca retreats, 3 ayahuasca ceremonies are typical over the course of a week. Between ceremonies, there is often a variety of healing modalities on offer similar to a yoga retreat – yoga sessions, breathwork, meditation, sound healing, etc.

Some ayahuasca retreats also incorporate other plant medicines, most commonly San Pedro. San Pedro is a cactus found throughout Central and South America, and known for it’s heart-opening properties. You can read more about San Pedro HERE.

You may also read more about Ayahuasca Retreat in USA here or have a look through all Retreats and Location here.

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