Prepare for Ayahuasca - An ayahuasca vine growing in the jungle

10 Ways to Prepare for an Ayahuasca Retreat

Going on an ayahuasca retreat or ceremony is a big deal. Whether you are preparing for your first ayahuasca retreat or your 100th ceremony, there is often a sense of stepping into the unknown.

Ayahuasca can indeed trigger profound changes in people’s lives. Yet, like any achievement, there is a degree of difficulty involved.

Through beautiful visions of our potential or the intense truths plant medicine can bring, making the most of the journey is easier if you prepare for ayahuasca in a meaningful way.

While this is written with ayahuasca in mind, many of these ideas can help to prepare for other experiences like psilocybin retreats. Here are some tools to start the preparing for journey:

1. Expect the Unexpected

Ayahuasca is unpredictable. Nobody can tell you exactly what will happen. Instead of trying to figure out what you think should happen or want to happen, it can be helpful to approach ayahuasca as a teacher.

You probably wouldn’t sign up for a class teaching something you already know. Taking ayahuasca is the same. If we knew what it was going to show us, we wouldn’t value it so much.

By not allowing expectations to get too specific, the possibilities of what can be learned from ayahuasca become greater.

2. Be in a Safe Environment

You do not want to have to worry about your safety when doing ayahuasca. Select facilitators, centers, and shamans who have established reputations with verifiable reviews.

There have been many reports of theft, along with physical and sexual abuse by unethical practitioners, so do your homework before choosing a retreat or ceremony.

When you are on ayahuasca, you might not be able to move or speak without assistance. Be in an environment where you can get that help from people whom you trust and who are invested in helping you.

Taking risks on psychedelics, particularly in foreign countries, is not worth it.

Related Infographic: Ayahuasca and The Shipibo-Conibo Tribe

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3. Be Open to Something Different

Since we don’t know exactly what ayahuasca will show us, it’s important to keep an open mind. Keeping an open mind can keep you from immediately dismissing strange and confusing visions or feelings.

Ayahuasca is often used in a ceremonial context where shamans will share songs we are not used to and perform rituals. Respect for tradition and openness to the wisdom of other cultures can teach lessons alongside the psychedelic experience.

We might not immediately understand what happened on ayahuasca, but remaining to open to exploring whatever happened allows a greater harvest of insight.

4. Know Your Intentions

Intentions are why you are taking the medicine. There are infinite reasons people feel called to ayahuasca, and will be extremely individual. Examples are trying to improve physical or mental health, processing grief, seeking self-knowledge, or even simple curiosity.

Journaling can help develop strong intentions. Try writing ideas down, return to them later, and ask yourself more questions about why it is important to you.

Feeling a strong emotion about an intention can make it more meaningful. Working with a coach or therapist can help you explore your intentions too.

Having meaningful intentions keeps us motivated to prepare well, to stay grounded in a ceremony, and as a reference point for integration afterwards.

Intentions are not always fulfilled in the way we expect, so mindful of any specific expectations!

Intentions are also not a guaranteed outcome. It can be helpful to think of intentions as guiding principles and values to return to when we are stuck. While many people find what they seek, ayahuasca will sometimes focus on blind spots we did not expect.

5. Follow the Ayahuasca Diet

Prepare for Ayahuasca with a healthy diet
Prepare your body with the ayahuasca diet.

Ayahuasca is from the Amazon basin in South America. In the Amazon, there are not traditionally cheeseburgers, donuts, and cookies. There are also no prescription medications like anti-depressants, nor are there recreational drugs.

When shamans learn to work with ayahuasca, they take on extremely restrictive diets with the goal of developing a closer connection to the plants. You might not intend to become an ayahuasquero, but if you want to get the most out of your ayahuasca journey, preparing your body helps.

Most retreat centers and facilitators have lists of foods to avoid. Typically, avoiding salt, sugar, processed food, red meat, spicy food, and recreational drugs and alcohol is recommended.

Prescription drugs like anti-depressants are not recommended to be mixed with ayahuasca. If you are considering taking ayahuasca and are on medication, talk to your provider. Discontinuing the medication should not be done without professional guidance.

There is no standardized list of preparatory practices, and the retreat center or facilitator should be able to answer any specific questions. While it’s not typically as strict, a clean diet can also help prepare for experiences like San Pedro and psilocybin.

6. Prepare Your Mind for Ayahuasca

Part of the ayahuasca diet can be considered mental. No sex or masturbation for a period of time before ayahuasca is a nearly universal recommendation, and in some cases, limited social contact and the use of technology.

The content we consume – television, social media, podcasts, news, and even people we talk to and books we read influence our thoughts.

Being intentional about what we use our minds for is important to prepare for ayahuasca. This discipline helps us focus on what matters in the days leading up to the experience.

Journaling, meditation, and speaking with a coach or therapist can help develop intentions or simply make space for new insights. The more work on yourself you can do before the journey, the better.

Yoga, hitting the gym, and going for a run are all not only helpful for the body. Nowadays, exercise for mental health benefits are well established. Getting exposure to nature is also a great way to calm the mind and take some space from our busy lives.

Getting any pressing tasks or big conversations out of our way before ayahuasca also helps to focus on the work ahead.

7. Have a Sense of Adventure

They don’t call it a “journey” for nothing.

Ayahuasca is an exploration of your mind, your life, dreams, goals, failures, and victories of the past, present and future. It can connect you to spiritual aspects of life, God, source, or whatever makes life meaningful to you. It can open new emotional ranges, body awareness, and perspectives on being a human.

The list is literally endless. Again, nobody knows what it’s going to show you. Having a healthy curiosity about whatever is happening before and after an ayahuasca ceremony helps.

While ayahuasca can be an incredible source of knowledge and wisdom, it also can be pretty humbling to realize how much we don’t know.

So, simply try to welcome all of it. Perhaps even accept it. But if something is too big to accept in the moment, know that every ayahuasca journey has an end, and there are lots of people having the experience with you.

8. Do Some Research and Be Supported

What is ayahuasca? Can you safely do it? What are psychedelics? Who is qualified to give them to you? 

You will notice none of these questions are answered in this post. But finding the answer can help you feel relaxed and safe.

It’s not necessary to know every detail about ayahuasca and psychedelics to work with them. That’s why there are professionals to guide us. But, it covering the basics gives us peace of mind for ourselves and the people around us.

Knowing if your body and mind are compatible with the various compounds in ayahuasca, along with working with safe and knowledgeable facilitators to administer the medicine, is the bare minimum to prepare.

Integration is an important part of the Ayahuasca experience
If you aren’t sure about something, talk with a professional.

9. Be Realistic When You Prepare for Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca does change people’s lives. And sometimes, people drink the medicine and sit around all night, completely sober, listening to strange music and their friends vomiting. Again, which will happen to you, nobody knows.

Seeking plant medicine usually means you want something new. This is a normal and powerful impulse.

But, when we expect ayahuasca to change everything for us, we might end up disappointed.

Sure, ayahuasca might help you find your calling or heal. When we are motivated enough to do these things, we often will do whatever it takes. But sometimes, what it takes isn’t only an ayahuasca retreat.

Ayahausca presents a powerful opportunity to jumpstart a change. But it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee.

The most foolproof way to work with ayahuasca is to have the motivation, resources, and skills to improve our situations long after the medicine has worn off.

10. Prepare for Integration

The vision you had on ayahuasca may be difficult to follow through on six months later when you are working full-time and taking care of a family.

So, to properly prepare for ayahuasca, start planning integration! Have the support of peers, coaches, therapists, and community groups. Time, money, and energy help too.


This might all sound pretty intense. And it’s true, doing ayahuasca is a commitment to take seriously. Ayahuasca is ancient, sacred, and can be extremely powerful.

While ayahuasca can be a challenge, but many have worked with it to make profound changes or heal from incredible circumstances.

We don’t know what it will do for you, but you got this and we wish you luck on your journey.

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About the Author

Patrick is a freelance writer and blogger at AdjustableNormal. Since his youth, he has been fascinated with psychedelics and altered states, experimenting with them on and off the page. His drive to explore consciousness has brought him around the world and down many rabbit holes to yogis, plant nerds, and alternative communities. Originally Canadian, he lives in the Peruvian Andes with his wife and cat.

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