Yawanawá community member

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Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being

7 Health And Well-Being Lessons We Can Learn From The Yawanawá

The rainforest is their pharmacy, creativity is vital and pain shouldn’t be feared. Here one insider explains how to live well Yawanawá-style

5 OCTOBER 2021

For a unique insight into the Yawanawá way of thinking, we spoke to Adam First, founder of Yawanawá Retreats, a professional healer from Finland who leads tours and ceremonies in the Brazilian rainforest and is an ambassador for the Yawanawá lifestyle. Adam is also friends with Tashka, Chief of the Yawanawá, our co-creator on the Yawa #TOGETHER project, and has learnt about natural healing from Tashka’s sister. Here, he explains seven health and well-being philosophies that we could all be inspired by...

Lesson 1: Natural remedies are all around you

‘For the Yawanawá, the rainforest is their home, their restaurant, their church, their education and their pharmacy. The elders have an amazing knowledge of every specific plant from the forest used for healing. Here in the Western world, we often forget the importance of our elders and our ancestors. Two of the main medicines used by the Yawanawá from the Amazon rainforest include: Kambo, known as ‘the hunter’s medicine’, a natural detoxifier which is a secretion from the back of an Amazonian tree frog and Rapé, a mix of certain types of sacred tobacco that can help with anything from energy blockages to infections. They also believe sometimes you have to experience pain before it gets better, rather than immediately try to numb it. The Yawanawá know lots of stories of people who’ve been helped by these natural remedies. More and more people want to go to the Amazon to learn from Yawanawá families.’


Disclaimer: #TOGETHERBAND cannot officially endorse any remedies. Seek medical advice before trying.


Adam First, founder of Yawanawá Retreats

Adam First, founder of Yawanawá Retreats 

Lesson 2: Heal the mind and spirit, not just physical symptoms


‘In the Western World, if we have a health problem, we’re very focussed on the physical symptoms, where the problem is and how to treat it. For the Yawanawá, it’s the other way round. Their view is if you have a physical problem, then something in your spirit isn’t intact and they go to see the shaman, the spiritual leader, who will use natural medicines from the forest to try and heal the spirit. Their philosophy is that the body will die at some point, but the spirit will continue forever so they always want to heal the spirit.’

Lesson 3: Measure success at work in practical terms

‘The work of the Yawanawá is often very practical – there are certain things they have to do to survive like taking care of their animals, fixing their house etc. Success at work is based on whether you have enough food, if you are taking care of your family and your children are safe. It’s not about seeking promotions and posting your achievements on LinkedIn.’

The Yawanawá community

The Yawanawá community

Image: @maiharamarjorie

Lesson 4: Physical labour offsets stress

‘The Yawanawá life is far more physical than the Western lifestyle. We aren’t meant to sit in the office every day for eight hours then go to a gym, another confined space. I feel their lives are more aligned than ours. Both men and women are amazing – they are very strong physically but also strong inside. Everyone is always busy doing something, cooking, cleaning, fixing things... even the children.’

Lesson 5: Seek a healthy work/life balance

‘In the Amazon, you mostly start work when the sun is out, which could be from 6am and always stop when the sun goes down. Sometimes they might get up very early in the morning, like 4am, 5am or 6am, and go out to hunt. Then they’ll come back, have a siesta when the sun is very strong around midday and take the rest of the day off. They are very aligned with the seasons, the elements and their life priorities, like spending time with family.’

Lesson 6: Grief should be expressed

‘Back in 2016, I went to the mourning ceremony of Tata Yawanawá, the oldest spiritual leader of the Yawanawá community, who died at the age of 104. It was very profound because Tata had been the one who was carrying on all the spirituality through tough times, like when the missionaries came to the rainforest and tried to force Indigenous peoples not to speak their language or follow their traditions. He was one of the few who were hiding out in the forest. He was a living example of all the traditions and the ancestral knowledge. At the ceremony, everyone was letting out their emotions and their tears. Then having expressed their grief, the event turned into a celebration of his life.’

Lesson 7: Creativity is part of everyday life

‘In the West, if someone paints or sings, people automatically say, ‘Oh are you painter or are you singer?’ assuming they do it as a profession. But for the Yawanawá most people are creative, whether that’s through art, crafts or music. Using your creativity is part of life, which is very healthy.’

Our Yawa Bands

Our Yawa Bands, plus traditional cuffs

Image: @maiharamarjorie

Our Yawa #TOGETHER Kickstarter is now LIVE! Click here to help preserve the culture of the Yawanawá and the Amazon rainforest by pledging support for our campaign. We have collaborated with the Yawanawá to make Yawa Bands in the heart of the rainforest, created from ácaí seed waste and Parley Ocean Plastic®️, each featuring a single Humanium Metal bead, made from melted down seized illegal firearms.  

Meet the Yawanawá: 'Nature Is Like Our Family – It's Part Of Us'

From Seed To Bead: How The Yawanawá Make Our Bands

Indigenous Peoples: Guardians Of The Forest