Although this indigenous plant medicine has been consumed for over 1000 years in the Amazon basin of South America, it’s only caught up with modern culture in the past few decades. It wasn’t until the 1980s when a Botanist from Colorado named Terence Mckenna released his book, True Hallucinations, where he detailed his ayahuasca experiences with a small tribe along the banks of the Amazon river. Nowadays, people from all over the world are traveling to the Central and South American jungle to connect with the indigenous healing knowledge by drinking the psychedelics brew, Ayahuasca (aa·yuh·waa·skuh). Costa Rica is no exception; over the years, this country has been globally recognized as a wellness destination where travelers can advance their healing journey in a safe, natural, and sometimes luxurious environment.
In the following blog, we’ll discuss the psychoactive brew itself, reputable Ayahuasca Costa Rica retreats along the Gold Coast, and the life-changing experience of an American woman who’s been living in Tamarindo for the past 16 years and has attended 9 ceremonies.
What is Ayahuasca?
Ayahuasca is a powerful psychedelic brew traditionally used by indigenous people in the Amazon basin for shamanic and medicinal purposes. The brew is made from two plants: the ayahuasca vine and the leaves of the Chacruna plant, which contains the psychoactive compound DMT (dimethyltryptamine). These 2 plants consumed individually of each other have no psychoactive effect, but once brewed together, they transform into a medical substance that evokes deep physical, mental, and spiritual healing.
After the first cup, the ayahuasca brew can induce profound changes in perception, including vivid visual and auditory hallucinations, deep introspection into the concept of self, and emotional releases. The effects can last for several hours and are often accompanied by intense physical sensations such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The physical purging of ayahuasca normally represents the emotional purging of the participant’s non-essential life baggage and traumas that we’ve picked up (or been handed down) in our lives. Traumas, behavioral tics, soured relationships bubble to the surface of our mind’s eye and are ultimately released through physical purging. Most shamans will tell the participant that the intensive ceremony is only 50% of the journey and the second 50% is the integration of the lessons learned into one’s daily lives.
The Costa Rica ayahuasca experience has gained popularity in recent years as a tool for spiritual and personal growth and is often used in shamanic ceremonies led by trained practitioners from Colombian, Peru, and Brazil.
It’s important to note that ayahuasca can also pose risks, particularly for people with certain medical conditions (people with psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia for instance) or who are taking certain medications (including antidepressants, psychiatric medications,weight loss medications, etc.). Also, this experience can increase blood pressure which can be dangerous if you have a heart condition. Before entering into an ayahuasca ceremony, the participant must be clean from any alcohol use, illicit drug use, Benzodiazepines (anxiety medications), and a 1 week hiatus from caffeine is recommended. Committing to a pre-ceremony diet and working with authentic healers is key to the success of the experience. Luckily, Costa Rica has gained a positive reputation with authentic “Curanderos” (Shamans) at high-end wellness retreats that host these sacred ceremonies with the guidance of health professionals prioritizing safety of the participants.
Costa Rica’s ayahuasca retreat centers
If you’re traveling to Costa Rica seeking a reputable, and somewhat luxurious space to join a ceremony, here are some reputable options in Guanacaste. . Rythmia Life Advancement Center is a luxury, medically-licensed spiritual retreat 1 hr. from the Liberia Int. airport (LIR) with a variety of life transforming services such as authentic ayahuasca ceremonies, yoga, metaphysics seminars, volcanic mud baths, life coaching, cleanses, transcendental breathwork, massages, and farm-to-table meals. Further south along the Guanacaste coastline is Blue Spirit near Playa Guiones. This 5-star yoga, meditation, and ayahuasca center is perched on a hilltop overlooking 3 miles of white sand beaches along the Pacific Ocean and works with the Colombian version of ayahuasca, Yagè. Blue Spirit offers an extraordinarily beautiful and natural setting for retreats, workshops, and trainings to nurture an unforgettable experience. A beachfront retreat is located at Sugar Beach (next to the walkable town of Las Catalinas Guanacaste), is Soltara Healing Center.
We had the opportunity to speak with Soltara and they explained to us that they work with the Amazonian plant medicine, ayahuasca, under the guidance of indigenous Peruvian, Shipibo tribe, healers. They collaborate with clinical psychologists who have extensive plant medicine experience to support a uniquely integrative approach to healing.
With 3 different locations (two of them in Costa Rica and one in Perú) this well known retreat is a seaside haven in the mountainous tropical forest in Guanacaste and has created a framework to unwind, dig deep, uncover the energetic blockages, self-limiting beliefs, and negative patterns. Soltara has decades of combined experience holding ceremonies and doing medicine work which allows guests to experience in-depth healing in a safe and experienced environment thanks to highly skilled, gentle Shipibo healers. They will guide people in a self-discovery process through plant medicine healing, supportive holistic modalities, and modern psychotherapeutic practices.
Beyond the retreat, preparation, aftercare, and integration support is a foundational pillar of Solara’s work. They offer individualized and group therapeutic support before and after the retreat, as well as a private online community platform. This platform is guided by a trusted network of practitioners and teachers to support their guests in the integration and beyond.
Brooke (the name we have given our interviewer) is originally from Washington state, but has lived in Tamarindo for the last 16 years and participated in 9 ayahuasca ceremonies. She became aware of this experience through a friend and so began the curiosity, research and apprehensiveness…
TRE – Why did you decide to do a Costa Rica ayahuasca?
Brooke – “To let control go and for the plant medicine to take over was a big deal. I am happy I decided to do it, had a wonderful experience, and then continued to experience plant medicine when I was looking for growth or insights”.
TRE – How is an ayahuasca retreat?
Brooke – “They usually are located in a protected space with the shaman having his tools and instruments laid out in front of them. Then there is a circle where each person has their blankets or mats to lay on with anything else special and of course a bucket for purging. Usually the Shaman or coordinator (translator) will share about what is going to happen then you can choose to do rapé (tobacco powder that’s blown into your nostrils with an initial burning sensation and grounding effect) and then line up or be asked to come up and drink the plant medicine. After about 90 minutes, you’ll embark on your individual journey and there are helpers there while the shaman chant and play music for you. The ceremonies start shortly after sunset and can last until sunrise. Some people fall asleep while others continue to drink and journey. You are asked if you want more ayahuasca after your first cup and you can choose to take more if you would like.”
TRE – Tell us about your experience
Brooke – “My first experience was the best one of my 9 experiences total. I was nervous but had to let go of that to invite the medicine to work. I had an incredible experience and saw two past lives of mine as well as so much more imagery of emotions in our world displayed differently. I saw many things and then at the end it was calm and finally, the journey was over. I hadn’t thrown up but yawned thousands of times. It was insane. I kept rolling over from side to side and the next day the shaman said he saw all my neurons re-connecting on one side of my body. I told him that was incredible cause I too saw it and had damaged my nerves on that side in an accident in College. All my experiences differed but were amazing and insightful in some way or another”.
TRE – Who would you recommend ayahuasca?
Brooke – “It’s hard to say if you recommend it to one person because there are so many walks of life that can benefit from ayahuasca. I recommend it to anyone that is willing to let go of their control and explore new possibilities. ayahuasca has many healing properties, and those with an illness can benefit from her. For me I recommend it to anyone that is willing to look further into who they are and what life has to offer and whether you are going for one thing when starting the journey the ayahuasca will decide what you need to see and how you heal”.
TRE – What positive (and negative) effects have you seen in your life after this experience?
Brooke – “I have not received any negative effects, only positive. I am more open to people and not passing judgment. I also have learned a lot about myself and try to practice the positive things in my daily life. I also feel more connected to myself and aware in general”.
Thanks to Brooke for being open to share her ayahuasca experience with us and Soltara Healing Center.
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