Gaia Sagrada Ayahuasca Retreat Center has gained the reputation as being one of the safest and best ayahuasca retreat centers in the world for experiencing Ayahuasca ceremonies and San Pedro ceremonies. Many people who have been to other ayahuasca centers have said we do it better than all the other ayahuasca retreats they have been to. What we are doing is unique. The 100’s of ayahuasa retreat reviews we have gotten over the years attest to that fact. People often mention how safe they feel here in the ayahuasca reviews they give about Gaia Sagrada.
That means a lot to us because safety is our first and foremost prime directive and we cut no corners when it comes to safety in our ayahuasca retreats. Our shamans make very strong, pure medicine, and that means the environment has to be truly safe and supportive for these ayahuasca retreats.
Ayahuasca Safety First!
We have taken every possible precaution, from making sure there are plenty of sober helpers at the Ayahuascsa ceremonies and San Pedro ceremonies, a driver with car on premises at all times, to making sure in this environment no one can fall or get hurt. We take this responsibility for people’s safety during Ayahuasca retreats very seriously. We feel that other centers should follow these guidelines as well. We hope that in the future, every Ayahuasca retreat center in Ecuador and Peru, and for that matter the entire world, follow guidelines such as these to make sure that people are safe when meeting the Ayahuasca (Yage) and San Pedro (Huachuma) healing medicines.
Why Ecuador Ayahuasca Retreats and Not Peru Ayahuasca Retreats? Shaman Certification
One of the most important reasons why we chose Ecuador instead of Peru to hold these retreats is because the shamans are required to have certification to practice, proving that they have had the training they are required to have in order to practice this profession. In Peru, anyone can call themselves a shaman whether they are qualified to be a shaman or not. Here is our article about Ecuador vs. Peru Ayahuasca Retreats.
There is a reason real and true shamans train for many many years before they are blessed by their teachers to carry the medicine to the people. There is a lot of learning involved in how to work with the spirit world, the physical world and handling medicine ceremonies in an ethical way.
Why Gaia Sagrada is Safe
1. Strong, Pure Medicines, No Additives: Our shamans are under contract to make only pure medicines with no additives whatsoever. For Ayahuasca, it is only the vine and leaf. For San Pedro, only the cactus is used. We want you to meet the medicines in their pure form.
2. Shamans Stay With Participants From Beginning To End of Ceremony, Even After Ceremony is Finished: At many centers, the shamans do not stay with the participants through the ceremony from beginning to end. At some centers, the shamans give the medicine, sing Icaros (medicine songs) for an hour or two, and then leave. Then the participants are on their own with the medicine without guidance. That is irresponsible. Never should a participant be left on their own with the medicines.
Our shamans stay with you through the whole experience and they are even present after the experience should anyone have questions or need extra help. They are also available to talk to between ceremonies. At many centers the shamans are not available to talk with, they disappear, and at some centers if you are to see them around you are prohibited from talking with them or “bothering” them. Our shamans make themselves available, it is part of the work as far as we are concerned!
3. A Woman Runs Gaia Sagrada: Because a woman runs the center, Christine Breese, women are particularly safe at this center as she will not tolerate abuse toward women or taking advantage of them on any level. She has chosen shamans who can be trusted. Our shamans are married, have loyal and committed relationships, and have children.
4. Male and Female Shamans at Each Ceremony: There is always a woman present at every ceremony in a position of either firekeeper or shaman. Salvador works the Ayahuasca ceremonies with his wife who is also a shaman, Paulina, who works as his equal. Sofia runs the sweat lodges with Salvador or another woman, and Christine is a fire keeper at the San Pedro ceremonies of Santiago. Women are absolutely safe! We have worked with these shamans for years and not once has there ever been inappropriate actions on their part. There is always female representation at every ceremony, so the women are always safe. Shamans always maintain a professional relation with all participants, both male and female.
5. Sober Helpers at All Ceremonies: We have 4-5 helpers at each Ayahuasca ceremony, busy emptying buckets, helping people to the bathroom, making sure everyone is comfortable and has what they need. We have 11 more helpers on call all the time should the need arise. There is always abundant help at every ceremony.
6. How We Handle Disturbances: Once in a while someone has a meltdown and might start yelling or crying loudly. When this happens, we gently remove the person from the circle and work with him or her at another safe spot close by for this purpose, where the noise will not disturb the other retreat participants. That is when we bring the other helpers who are on call so there is always someone with the person, helping them get through it. We never send someone away or leave them alone to work it out on their own. That would be irresponsible.
One of the shamans comes and checks on the person and does certain things to help clear the energy so the person can come back to the circle while the other shaman and firekeeper remains in the circle and continues to work with the group. We always handle these situations with love and gentleness, making sure people are physically ok and that they do not hurt themselves. This is an important responsibility, to take care of each person no matter what!
7. No One is Ever Left Alone: Ever. We care for them always. We do not permit anyone to wander off alone, either. It is a requirement that everyone stays with the ceremony because it is our responsibility to take care of them and if we don’t know where someone is we cannot take care of them. No one is ever left alone during ceremonies.
8. Environment is Safe: We have purposely put our sacred ceremonies in an area of the land where no mishaps can happen. No one can fall off a cliff, drown, or any other kind of mishap. We have made sure that the environment around the ceremony is easy to navigate and has no dangers.
9. Driver With Car on Premises During Every Ceremony: We have never had a need for it, but we always have a driver ready with a car should there ever be an emergency. No walking through jungles or forests, boats, or motorbikes to get to medical help. If there is an emergency, we are ready with a car to take you straight to medical facilities if needed.
10. Full Capacity Hospital 30 Minutes Away: Gaia Sagrada is located in a secluded natural setting in the mountains, and you would never know civilization is that close, but there is a modern, full capacity hospital only 30 minutes away by car. We have never had an emergency, but we are ready no matter what if there is one, and you are not far from a modern and fully equipped hospital if you should ever need one.
11. In Case There is Violence, We Are Prepared: No one has ever gotten violent or dangerous yet, but we are prepared in case someone goes there. At the beginning of the retreat we collect all pocket knives or anything people can hurt themselves or others with. This is part of the participant agreement, that they bring nothing of this sort to a ceremony. We do not have available anything nearby they can use, either. We also always have some strong, sober, male helpers to handle any situation if strength is needed. We have female helpers at each ceremony to bring gentleness to the situation as well.
12. Always someone present who knows CPR and First Aid: We always have someone present who knows CPR and First Aid. Even our shamans know these safety mechanisms. If you are truly having a medical problem, our shamans and/or our helpers can take care of the immediate needs. We have never had this issue, ever, but we are prepared in case it should ever be needed. No one has ever needed medical attention here except a bandaid or two once in a while! However, we believe ALL shamans should know at least CPR and First Aid.
13. NO Tobacco Purges Allowed: There are several deaths associated with the tobacco purge at other centers. Not everyone can handle high doses of nicotine. Unfortunately we don’t know who is allergic to nicotine until they take it and there is a problem. We believe that the tobacco purge is too risky and the benefits don’t outweigh the risks. Our participants are allowed to snort a spoonful of the tobacco water if they wish to, it’s optional, but nothing more. That amount will not hurt anyone. The tobacco snorting is an ancient tradition, one that we know is safe, but the purge is not safe, literally drinking a liter or two of tobacco water. We would discourage anyone from doing it who is thinking about it. Ayahuasca is a better purgative.
14. Our Shamans Speak Spanish AND English! This is very rare to find a center where you can talk directly to the shamans in your own language (English) and that the shamans are educated enough to be able to speak a language other than their own. There are very few shamans who can speak English. This way you can always talk with the shaman if you are having problems or issues, or even fears. This brings a whole new level of safety to working with shamans, that they are educated, intelligent, and able to speak your language even though they have studied the traditions with the elders and offer a truly traditional and ancient ceremony. This makes our center very unique and safe!
15. Balance: Day of Rest Between Ceremonies: Some centers cram, too many ceremonies into too short a time. It is better to have at least one day of rest between ceremonies so you have time to process everything the medicine is healing and teaching you. If ceremonies are back to back, one day after another, this is out of balance and is detrimental to your goals with the medicine. Medicines are not to be rushed. Here is our page detailing why a day of rest between ceremonies is necessary for a healthy experience.
16. Fire Extinguishers and Emergency Procedures: We have fire extinguishers in every room, and emergency lighting in each hallway. We have built our buildings to USA code standards so there are always plenty of exits from any building. Our buildings are also extra sturdy and strong, built with reinforcements that are not required. Our fire department is not far away either. They can come very quickly.
17. No mosquitos means no viruses, dengue, or malaria: If you are at any retreat center that has mosquitos, you open yourself to possible diseases that are mosquito borne. Since we have no mosquitos, that risk is not possible here!
18. Water is filtered: It is important that your water is safe for drinking and bathing. We not only chlorinate the water at it’s entry to the property, but we also run the water through a bio-sand filter and then at the drinking water sinks we have carbon filters, so you can always be sure that the water you are drinking is safe.
19. Guest Screening: Any center that does not ask you questions about your health and your history is not taking care to make sure people who might be problematic are not present. We screen people ahead of time to make sure they are healthy enough for this kind of retreat, both mentally and physically, so everyone can have a good experience.
While it is unfortunate that we have to put a page like this on our site, there have been deaths and mishaps connected with Ayahuasca retreats and ceremonies done by those who are untrained and did not know what they were doing at other centers. This was one of the reasons Gaia Sagrada was created, to make sure that there is a safe place in the world where people can be sure they are safe, respected and taken care of in a good way. We handle everything with experience, professionalism, and our shamans are impeccable. We feel that there is no better safety than preparation should something come up, and preventative methods to make sure an emergency doesn’t happen in the first place.
While it is a romantic notion to go deep into the jungle far away from medical facilities, needing to travel by boat, walking, or motorbikes, it is not realistic to take this risk with life. We believe a center should be within reach of medical facilities, have a safe environment, and staff who are knowledgeable about how to handle every situation that can come up. We have a beautiful land around us that makes you feel that you are far away from it all, secluded out in nature, but in reality we are close to whatever in civilization is needed and our shamans are well educated.
Our hope and our prayer is that every center in the world takes these precautions and takes as seriously as we do the responsibility they carry when working with these medicines.