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If you are considering an ayahuasca retreat for the first time, you're about to embark on a life-changing journey. To make the most of this experience, it's crucial to educate yourself on the preparation process, what to expect during the retreat, safety guidelines, and the potential benefits of the experience. This article will outline the potential of this transformative experience, provide practical tips and guidance for preparation and participation, offer insights into the benefits and risks associated with ayahuasca ceremonies, and address common concerns and misconceptions related to Ayahuasca.

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a potent medicinal brew with its roots in the Amazonian region. The brew is made by combining the bark of Banisteriopsis caapi, a jungle vine, with Psychotria viridis, a shrub that contains DMT, a highly potent psychoactive substance. The resulting concoction is known to produce an array of hallucinogenic effects, such as heightened senses, vivid visions, and altered states of consciousness, that can last for several hours.

What is the cultural significance of Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a sacred plant medicine used for thousands of years by indigenous tribes living in the Amazon rainforest. It is considered a divine gift from the universe and referred to as "the vine of the soul" or "the spirit vine." Ayahuasca helps people gain profound insights into the mysteries of existence, promoting healing, divination, and spiritual communion. According to indigenous tribes, the knowledge of Ayahuasca was granted to humans by spirits or gods as a way to connect with the divine and acquire deep wisdom.

What are the benefits of Ayahuasca?

Plant medicine has remarkable healing powers and has been known to help individuals deal with unresolved issues and past traumas. Ayahuasca is thought to work by assisting people to connect with their inner selves, gain insights and wisdom, and undergo a unique transformation in line with their personal goals and needs. Ayahuasca can unlock years of pent-up emotions, providing inner peace and a sense of well-being. It can also help  improve relationships by opening people up to feelings of love and compassion, allowing them to connect more deeply with others. Plant medicine offers a unique experience that can help people overcome unresolved issues and limiting beliefs, leading to a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.

Ayahuasca has been known to bring tremendous benefits to those seeking its healing powers. It's a profound, life-changing event that has the potential to create a more confident and self-aware version of oneself. It allows individuals to connect with their inner voice of feelings, leading to a deeper understanding of themselves and their place in the world.

Why Choose an Ayahuasca Retreat?

Before the emergence of organized ayahuasca retreats, those who wanted to experience the plant's effects would have to undertake an arduous journey to a remote area of the rainforest, where they would search for a shaman who was skilled in the plant's use. This journey was fraught with challenges such as language and communication barriers, substandard conditions, and safety risks, which made it far from ideal for most people. Ayahuasca retreats have gained immense popularity in recent years. Many people travel to countries like Peru and Costa Rica to experience the effects of this potent psychedelic drink. However, consuming a substance that can cause hallucinations and vomiting can be a scary (and dangerous) experience, even under the best of circumstances. That's why it's crucial to consider joining an organized retreat with all the necessary safety measures to ensure you have a positive experience and enjoy your "trip" in every sense.

What types of Ayahuasca retreats are available?

The structure of an Ayahuasca experience can vary depending on the type of ceremony or retreat you attend. There are different types of ceremonies to choose from when selecting the best setting for your experience.

Traditional Jungle Ceremonies

These require a significant and rugged journey to reach an indigenous healer. The ceremonies are usually small and guarantee individual attention from the shaman. Multiple ceremonies occur over an extended period, and other plant medicines may be combined with Ayahuasca. The Icaros and other traditional medicine songs are typically played throughout the journey.

Group Ceremonies

These small retreat centers are usually hosted by indigenous or mestizo shamans at forest centers that maintain traditional ceremonial structures. These ceremonies typically occur in a maloca, an open structure with only a roof, where participants are provided with a mattress and other comfort items. The primary curandero attends to the participants, along with a team of supporting facilitators, often consisting of the healer's family members. Retreat centers offer more structure for participants to prepare before and integrate after the ceremony, including on-site lodging and meals.

Underground, Illegal Ceremonies

These are held in secret locations, such as personal homes, forest retreat centers, and healing studios or meditation centers. This is because Ayahuasca contains dimethyltryptamine, which is classified as a Schedule I drug in North America. Sometimes, healers known as "curanderos" travel to these countries to offer their medicine and healing songs. Other times, Westerners may take it upon themselves to facilitate plant medicine work. As a result, the structure and experience of the ceremonies may vary.

What is the Importance of a Shaman in Ayahuasca Ceremony?

A shaman is your guide during a ceremony. In the jungle, a shaman's skills are obtained through practical experience, ancestral oral teaching transmission, cultural traditions, and a natural aptitude for plant medicine. During ceremonies, the shaman will help participants orient themselves and help them comfortably explore the medicine effects. A shaman has spent significant time researching these worlds within worlds. In the shamanic tradition, all illnesses and disorders are believed to have an energetic or spiritual component. People used to visit a shaman or curandero to address this issue and promote overall well-being in their lives, families, and communities. The prescriptions for healing varied widely depending on the individual's needs. The Ayahuasca brew has been used as a central gateway for profound, transformative experiences, and people seek a healing experience with Ayahuasca to either deepen their spiritual journey or to heal disorders such as depression, anxiety, addiction, and emotional trauma. A skilled shaman will know how to guide you through your experience so that you get the most benefits.

Is Ayahuasca right for you?

In the West, we often look outside ourselves to find what we need. You are an individual. It's crucial to find an environment that supports your individual needs by looking within yourself. Plant medicine retreats will help you tune into yourself, learn who you are, connect with others, and feel deeper empathy for others.

Embarking on an Ayahuasca retreat is a big deal and shouldn't be taken lightly. A lot of realizations and breakthroughs are possible with plant medicine. Preparing for your visit will allow you to have the best experience possible. It's essential to prepare the mind and look at your thoughts. Are they positive? Are they mindful of the experience you are about to embark on?

‍Set Your Mind with Intentions

When people try plant medicine for the first time, it's normal to feel nervous. It's healthy to feel that way. Before the experience, setting intentions and goals you hope to achieve is beneficial. For instance, if you're holding onto past traumas, you may want to put an intention to let go of them. Or you're going through a transition period and need to find direction. In that case, you can set an intention to connect with yourself, gain clarity, and move forward positively. Preparing your mind means doing things that are emotionally and cognitively positive. Setting intentions is a great way to achieve this. Take some time to find your reason for trying plant medicine. It could be as simple as wanting to connect with your soul. And that's perfectly fine. Doing so can open many doors to a brighter future.

Choosing the Best Retreat Center

If you're looking for an Ayahuasca retreat, the best centers offer a complete healing program beyond the ceremony. These retreats prioritize your well-being in every way possible, ensuring your stay is comfortable. Here are some of the amenities you can expect to find at the top ayahuasca retreat centers:

  • Comfortable, eco-friendly lodging options: The best centers provide comfortable and eco-friendly accommodations designed to help you relax and unwind. There are many options, from spacious rooms with comfortable beds to private natural bungalows.
  • Serene meditation and relaxation areas: Meditation and relaxation are essential to the ayahuasca healing experience. That's why the top retreat centers provide peaceful spaces where you can meditate, practice yoga, or relax and soak up the serene ambiance.
  • Scenic gardens and natural surroundings: The environment's natural beauty is integral to the Ayahuasca healing experience. The best retreat centers are often scenic locations with beautifully landscaped gardens, lush forests, and picturesque views.
  • Refreshing swimming pools or natural water features: Water has a powerful healing effect; many top Ayahuasca retreat centers recognize this. You'll find swimming pools or natural water features where you can take a refreshing dip and rejuvenate your body and mind.
  • Soothing spa services: The Ayahuasca ceremony can be intense, and taking care of yourself before and after the experience is essential. That's why the best retreat centers offer spa services, such as massages and body treatments, to help you relax, detox, and rejuvenate.

Integration and Aftercare

The best retreats for Ayahuasca understand that the healing process extends beyond the ceremony. These retreats provide support to help you navigate and integrate the transformative process so that the lessons and insights gained during your retreat have a lasting impact.

This support should include one-on-one sessions with facilitators, group integration circles for sharing and processing experiences, workshops, and activities focused on self-reflection and personal growth. This level of support allows you to continue your healing journey long after you leave the retreat center, fostering lasting transformation and personal growth.

For instance, one Ayahuasca resort Rythmia and its acclaimed The Rythmia Way Program offers daily integration workshops and activities that prepare you to work with plant medicine and integrate all your learnings. The program includes group discussions, breathwork, yoga, guided meditation, and specialized classes. These classes are designed by world-class experts, such as Rev. Michael Beckwith, the bestselling author and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center, who created the course "The Answer You" exclusively for Rythmia. To provide ongoing support, Rythmia offers a post-program app to help you sustain and build on your learning after returning home. The app allows access to professionally recorded yoga, meditation, breathwork, and metaphysics classes taught by world-class experts. Additionally, you will gain access to a private Facebook group for your cohort to keep in touch with the friends you're sure to make at Rythmia.

What Sets Rythmia Apart from Other Retreats?

Rythmia is a Life Advancement Center in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, globally recognized for its Rythmia Way Program. This program is a week-long immersive experience designed to help individuals achieve personal transformation and healing, leading to a life-changing miracle. Over 97% of the more than 15,000 people who have completed the program have reported receiving a miracle.

Rythmia is a top-notch destination with luxurious accommodations, stunning surroundings, fresh organic meals, spa treatments, and exceptional amenities. However, what makes it stand out is its meticulously planned Rythmia Way program. This program blends ancient plant medicine teachings from the Columbian lineage with various harmonious modalities to create an immersive environment that optimizes healing. The program revolves around three intentions for participants who are ready to confront their true selves, reconnect with their inner beings, and mend their broken hearts.

The Rythmia program includes:

  • 7 Nights of Luxury Resort Accommodations
  • 4 Ayahuasca Ceremonies
  • 21 Farm-to-Table Organic Meals
  • 3 "The Answer is You" Classes Designed by Michael Beckwith
  • 1 "About Your Miracle" Class by Rythmia's founder, Gerard Powell
  • 6 Yoga Classes
  • 3 Rhythmic Breathwork Classes
  • 1 Meditation Class
  • 1 Healing Massage
  • 1 Dance of Liberation™ Movement Ceremony Designed by Parashakti
  • 2 Deep Sea Hydro Colonic Cleanses

Safety First at Rythmia

Rythmia is a unique plant-based medicine center as it is the only medically licensed center in the world approved by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health. It holds a General Medical License and a license from IAFA, the Costa Rican drug and alcohol facility management division. The Rythmia program has been designed with stringent safety protocols to ensure the well-being of its guests. Their staff undergo extensive training, and they have a highly qualified medical team available 24/7 to support all aspects of your wellness. They have taken all necessary safety measures, including strict safety protocols, to ensure your stay is safe and worry-free. 24-hour medical staff on-site, including a medical doctor, registered nurses, and EMTs, world-class healers with extensive experience in the Indigenous Colombian lineage and the Rythmia Way Program. Some of their safety elements include:

  • Rigorous pre-travel and on-site medical screenings.
  • 24-hour security of their gated community.
  • A minimum 1:8 staff-to-guest ratio during ceremonies ensures personalized care is available.
  • Highly specialized integration courses to ensure you are prepared to work with medicine.
  • A Staff Code of Conduct signed by all staff and strictly enforced.
  • A Guest Code of Conduct signed by each guest and strictly enforced.
  • Adhere to strict and extensive safety and incident protocols and participate in regular audits to maintain their status as the world's only medically licensed plant-based medicine center.
  • An overall 2:1 staff-to-guest ratio, ensuring a caring member of their team is always available to help with the more minor but equally important matters of comfort and convenience.

Preparing For Your First Ayahuasca Journey

Preparing for an Ayahuasca ceremony involves following a series of protocols to create an environment that is conducive to spiritual and psychological healing. One crucial aspect of this preparation is following a dieta, which involves specific dietary and behavioral guidelines. These guidelines are meant to purify the body and mind and help prepare the participant for the intense Ayahuasca ceremony experience.

It's important to understand that Ayahuasca affects every individual differently, even if two people prepare for the ceremony similarly. The tea provides each person with what they need, and everyone's needs are unique. Therefore, it's best to let go of any expectations and stay open to the possibilities that may arise during the ceremony. There's no need to compare your experience with others or judge it as right or wrong.

Whether you drink Ayahuasca in the jungle or in a city, it's crucial to integrate the lessons learned during the healing experience. The key is to be intentional about incorporating the lessons and finding ways to continue the healing process while balancing the demands of your daily life.

Preparation Guidelines

Four Weeks Before:

Eliminate any medication that affects the serotonin system, including Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) and MAOI drugs, at least four weeks before the Ayahuasca ceremony. Consult your doctor and clear these medications from your body which may include  a slow weaning process. Inform the retreat organizer about the medicines you are on and their dosages. Agree with your doctor on a suitable plan to reduce your medications safely. These medications can interfere with the effects of Ayahuasca and, in some cases, have serious health consequences. Therefore, it is not advisable to work with Ayahuasca while taking these medications.

Two Weeks Before:

Some medications other than SSRI’s require a two-week period to be “free and clear” from before participating in an ayahuasca session.  Some of these medications are benzodiazapines, opiate pain mediation, and other prescription-based medications.  Please disclose all medications you are taking with your intake staff member and always follow the guidance of your prescribing physician when weaning off or terminating use of these medications.


One to Two Weeks Before:

“The Dieta” explains shamanic guidelines that are helpful in preparation for the ayahuasca experience.  Some of these guidelines include eliminating coffee and caffeinated beverages.  Sexual contact is also discouraged for 1-2 weeks prior, in order to help you focus on your own energy and avoid distraction that can inhibit your ceremonial experience with ayahuasca.  If you have an alcohol abuse issue or any drug addiction problem, it is essential that you disclose this to your intake staff member.  Ayahuasca interacts strongly with substances of abuse such as alcohol and other drugs, and can be very dangerous if those substances are still in your system.  Tapering off alcohol if you are chemically dependent is extremely dangerous and requires the help of your physician.  Please do not attempt to “detox” yourself from drug or alcohol dependency alone.  Any other psychedelic substances such as psilocybin, cannabis, DMT, LSD, etc (there are many more) require certain “off” periods before drinking ayahuasca.  Please disclose all use of these substances to your intake staff member.  Many over the counter supplements these days contain ingredients that are contraindicated as well.  5-HTP, GABA, ashwaganda, and many others are dangerous to mix with ayahuasca.  Please disclose the supplements and vitamins you are taking as well.

It’s also essential to follow a strict elimination diet and avoid salty foods, spicy foods, processed foods, pork, red meat, cured meats, and dairy products like yogurt and cheese. It’s also important to eliminate sugar, natural or artificial sweeteners, fermented foods, fried foods, yeast or yeast products, vinegar, or pickled foods. It’s also suggested to eliminate nutritional supplements like protein powders containing tyramines, sweets, and chocolate.

Consume unsalted vegetables, vegetable broths, well-cooked whole grains, low-sugar fruits, and coconut or olive oil. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  It's best to follow a simple and bland diet. At least a week before the first Ayahuasca ceremony, switch to a plant-based diet as long as your medical doctor is in agreement. This alleviates the stagnancy of the digestive tract to cleanse faster. Simplify your diet as much as possible in the months leading up to the ceremony.

Also, eliminate synthetic soaps, perfumes, toiletries, etc. If you wish to give yourself the best chance of a positive and transformative Ayahuasca experience, it's essential to follow these guidelines to ensure a safe and effective ceremony.

What Would Disqualify Me from Participating in A Ceremony?

Ayahuasca ceremonies are open to adults (typically 18 years and older) in good physical and mental health, seeking personal growth, and committed to approaching the experience with respect and intention and adhering to preparatory guidelines and guest code of conduct.

However, individuals with certain medical conditions, pregnant or nursing women, and those taking specific medications and supplements should refrain from participating.

‍Certain medical conditions may pose health risks with plant medicine, including epilepsy and seizures, Type 1 diabetes, heart and cardiovascular conditions, liver and kidney conditions, and certain extreme mental disorders such as Bipolar 1 and Schizophrenia. In addition, certain medications and supplements are contraindicated, including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants, central nervous system (CNS) depressants, and others.

What To Expect During Your First Retreat

The structure of ayahuasca ceremonies varies widely, but for example, the transformative journey at Rythmia offers meticulously curated plant medicine ceremonies. Spanning four nights, each session is presided over by a shaman, ensuring a varied and deepening experience as you progress. Drawing from the rich Amazonian indigenous lineage, their shamans have undergone extensive training to provide a spectrum of ceremonies, from a gentle initiation to the vibrant energy of "Ladies Night" (a journey through the Divine Feminine), culminating in a profound exploration on the final evening. Personalized care and guidance are ensured through a dedicated team of healers who remain by your side throughout each ceremony.

What Types of Experiences May You Have Under the Effects of Ayahuasca?

The facilitators at Rythmia have observed and classified four types of Ayahuasca experiences.


Pinta describes a journey through a visionary realm of colors, shapes, patterns, and languages. This vision helps you understand the power of your mind to shape and change the reality around you as an active participant in the universe. This experience is a restoration of balance of the brain hemispheres.


During this Ayahuasca journey, you experience a download of information and insights. Many report being able to receive a direct consultation on specific issues in their life.

Nothing or Nada

Sometimes, we do not experience the more apparent effects of this plant medicine, but it would be a mistake to believe that it has not had an impact. Even when we share "nothing" or "nada," Ayahuasca still works subconsciously and will generate answers, healing, insight, and change. Healers explain that the medicine is healing your lineage and past trauma.

The Body Journey

The body journey is a journey of physical sensations such as yawns, purging by throwing up, deep breathing, sighs, etc., to help the body expunge negative aspects of the self. When you cleanse, it reflects the mind and the soul, similarly flushing out used and redundant thoughts and constructs that no longer serve you.

The Mind Journey

Participants embark on a profoundly introspective and often profound journey at an Ayahuasca ceremony. However, it isn't easy to accurately describe the experience, as it varies significantly from person to person and from one ceremony to the next. Therefore, it's best to approach the experience with an open mind, a willingness to surrender control, and trust that whatever happens is meant to happen.

The Ceremony Environment

In more practical terms, the ceremony typically takes place in a designated space, often referred to as a "maloca," a name of Amazonian origins meaning a communal house. The space may be adorned with spiritual symbols, and an experienced and skilled shaman or facilitator may conduct the session. The ceremony typically begins in the evening and lasts several hours, with some ceremonial designs staying all night. Participants drink the Ayahuasca brew provided by the facilitator, and the effects usually begin within 30-60 minutes. However, these times can vary depending on several factors, like each person's metabolism, the strength of the brew, or, some would say, the whim of the plant spirits. Experiences may include vivid visions, emotional releases, physical tremors, temperature changes, revisiting biographical memories, and encounters with spiritual or symbolic entities.

Musical Aspect of the Ceremony

Music, often provided by the shaman or facilitators, is crucial in guiding the journey during ceremonies. The ceremonies focus on introspection, healing, and personal growth, and participants are encouraged to set intentions for their experience. While having an intention can be significant, it's important not to become too attached to it and instead allow the knowledge to flow freely. Much like our own breath, intentions can be helpful as an anchor to return to if our minds wander.


Vomiting or "purging" is an expected and essential part of Ayahuasca ceremonies. It is believed to release physical and emotional toxins, and almost every ceremony will include a bucket for participants to vomit into. It is essential to hold on tight to your puke bucket! The process involves cleansing your body and mind, which are necessary for the Ayahuasca experience. In many Amazonian languages, the local name for Ayahuasca translates to "the purge," highlighting the significance of this ceremony aspect. Purging can happen in different ways, but vomiting is the most common. Sometimes, the medicine will also cleanse our bodies from the lower end. Rythmia has many bathrooms that are easily accessed around the Maloca, with many helpers available to ensure you reach the bathroom in a timely manner as needed. Almost always, people are in control and knowledgeable enough to make it to the bathroom, and even on rare occasions when accidents happen, facilitators will help you wash, change clothes, deliver a fresh mattress, and ensure that you will soon be laughing about the whole thing.

The Conclusion of the Ceremony  

After the ceremony, there is usually a grounding period, followed by a group-sharing session. During this session, you can connect with other participants, hear about their experiences, and share your own. Group sharing is generally held the morning after the ceremony, although some people prefer to do it right after it ends. Additionally, facilitators will provide integration practices to help you understand your experiences better and apply any insights to your life.

Potential Challenges

It is essential to understand that ayahuasca experiences can present some potential challenges. Ayahuasca can help uncover deep emotions and elicit intense visions or physical and emotional discomfort. These experiences can also rattle our world maps and catalyze deep existential processes as we create new, more comprehensive models of the world, and what our place is in it. To navigate these challenges, it's crucial to approach the experience with humility, an open heart, and a willingness to surrender to the process. Cognitive and epistemic flexibility, or the capacity to absorb or hold new information about the world even when it conflicts with pre-existing models, can make things smoother as we let go of old belief systems.  

Maximizing the Experience After the Retreat Ends  

The actual "work" often begins after the ceremony ends, and it is time to make the necessary changes and adjustments to continue growing.  Ayahuasca can be intense, so approach it with an open heart. Following the post-diet recommendations and being diligent with the post-ceremony integration practices, such as journaling, meditation, or therapy, can help make sense of the experience. Lastly, comparing our experiences with each other is only sometimes applicable: each experience is unique and tailored to what each person needs. Comparisons likely lead to frustration instead of appreciation and gratitude for our journeys.

The Importance of Integration

The best retreat centers will set you up with a post-integration program. For example, Rythmia sets the bar for retreat integration because it includes a variety of daily integration workshops and activities designed to prepare you to work with plant medicine and integrate all of your learnings. Group discussions, breathwork, yoga, guided meditation, and specialized classes work together to ensure you gain practical tools for long-term change and self-empowerment. Their classes are designed by world-class experts, such as the best-selling author and founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center, Rev. Michael Beckwith, who created the "The Answer You" course exclusively for Rythmia. They also offer a post-program app that will allow you to sustain and build on your learning once you return home. You will gain access to professionally recorded yoga, meditation, breathwork, and metaphysics classes taught by world-class experts. In addition, you will receive access to a private Facebook group for your cohort to keep in touch with the friends you made on your journey!

Common Myths and Misconceptions

There is a widespread misconception that Ayahuasca is dangerous. However, when administered under the supervision of a fully qualified medical support team, with proper screening and safe facilities, it can be a safe option for transformational healing. The team should have a medical license, provide medical intake, and have on-site medical facilities to ensure a secure experience. Rythmia is a retreat center that checks all these boxes.

Many people assume they must survive the harsh jungle conditions during a plant medicine retreat, but that's not the case. At Rythmia, guests can enjoy a luxurious five-star experience and stunning surroundings.

There is a common misconception that plant medicine is only for those with addiction and mental health issues. However, there are many reasons to seek these remedies, such as burnout, broken relationships, and seeking more joy. Promising research supports their effectiveness.

It is worth noting that age is not a barrier to participating in plant medicine. The oldest person who has participated in Rythmia was 96 years old, and often, there are individuals aged 70 or above. However, your medical intake will determine whether you are eligible to participate.


Embarking on an ayahuasca retreat can be one of the most transformative experiences of your life. Ayahuasca is a powerful plant medicine that has been used for centuries by indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest to heal and access higher states of consciousness. However, it's important to remember that this is not a recreational drug and should be approached with respect and caution. Before deciding to participate in an ayahuasca retreat, you must research and ensure that you work with a reputable and experienced facility. This involves reading reviews, asking for recommendations, and verifying credentials. Preparing yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally for the experience is crucial.


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