History of Latvian Yoga Society

History of Latvian Yoga Society

Janis Veselis praktizēja jogu Krievijas armijas Kaukāza daļā. Attēlā jaunākā virsnieka formā.

Some interest in Indian philosophical thought can be found in Latvia earlier, but it began to take organized forms with the establishment and strengthening of Latvia’s independence, when in 1924 an organization began to form, which later became more widely known as the Latvian Yoga Society. It was originally founded and formally registered on April 1, 1925 as the Society of Parapsychology. The first chairman of the board was Emma Apare (later known as Emma Balodis). Later, in 1930, Emma Apare-Balodis together with her husband Aleksandrs Balodis founded another organization “Latvian Society of Spiritual Sciences”, in the statutes of which yoga studies remained only one sub-item among many. Among other things, the former Society of Parapsychology gradually moved in the direction of practical yoga studies. However, the issues of yoga and Indian philosophical thought were at the forefront of it from the very beginning of the society’s work. The association’s monthly “Bells” (1926-1928) published a series of articles on various forms of yoga and also on the teaching of yoga in general. The active author on this topics was Rūdolfs Kriegers (he also published the book “Indian Yoga Breathing Exercises” and some other small brochures), and for the first time the latest leader of the Latvian Yoga Society Harijs Dīkmanis (signed by H.D.) also appears as an active author in this magazine.

At the beginning of the 1930s, K. Šubergs and Jānis Veselis, permanent activists and board members of the association, served as the chairman of the board, but later for several years the association was headed and its undivided leader was Harijs Dīkmanis. In the last year of the association’s activity – 1940 – its chairman was Osvalds Kolbergs.

The society actively collaborated with several of the most prominent Indian yoga teachers of the time, but most of all with Sri Yogendra, Sri Raman Maharishi, Swami (later Paramahamsa) Yogananda and Sri Swami Shivananda Sarasvati from Rishikesh.

A more extensive academic study on the history of the Latvian Yoga Society has been conducted by Dr. Solveiga Krūmiņa – Konkova ->

President of the Latvian Yoga Society Harijs Dīkmanis


Harijs Dikmanis 1938. portrait

Sri Yogendra “International Journal on the Science of Yoga” Vol. 3 No 15, February 1935, On the front page H. Dikmanis.

Divine Life Society 1937. review (front page)

Latvian Yoga Society - women branch

Latvian Yoga Society – ladies section


At the moment, it is a paradoxical situation that Boris Sakharov is known all over the world, but Harry Dickmanis – a colleague of the same Boris Sakharov – is not even known in his homeland, even though he did a huge job with his colleagues here in Latvia in 10 years.

It is wrong to suppose that Yoga-Asanas are purely meant for the Indians and that they are ideally suited to Indian conditions. That it is not the case is proved by the following few instances. Mr. Harry Dikman, the Director-Founder of the Yoga Centre in Riga, Latvia (Europe) is a good specialist in these Yoga-Asanas, Bandhas and Mudras and his opinion and advice to persons suffering from various kinds of diseases, curable and incurable, are increasingly becoming popular in Europe. I have not heard of another man either in Europe or in America, who takes such a keen and lively interest in this subject and is making researches in the same. You will be surprised to know that Mr. Harry Dikman is essentially a philosopher and a sage….
Mr. Ernest Haekel of Los Angeles, California, Mr. Boris Sacharow of Berlin and several others interested in acquiring psychic powers by awakening the Kundalini are all instances to prove that Yoga-Asanas can be practiced and are intended not only for India and the Indians but for the whole world and the humanity at large.

Source: A lecture delivered in the Willoughby Memorial Hall, Lakshmipur, by Swami Sivananda Sarasvati, on December 15 1932

Photos from the celebrations in the women’s section of the Latvian Yoga Society in 1938

In 1938, in honor of one of the main teachers of the Latvian Yoga Society in India, Sri Swami Sivanand Sarasvati, on his 51st birthday, the society held a wider celebration. Below are pictures from the celebrations in the women’s section of the society.

September 8, 1938

Latvian Yoga Society, members of ladies section


Latvian Yoga Society members


Mrs. Anna Dolfij, President of the Women ‘s Section of the Latvian Yoga Society – 1938 

Mrs. Anna Plaudis, one of the most active members of the women’s section – 1938

Excerpts from the article and a summary of the celebrations in the women’s section of the LJB in the anniversary edition of the Divine Life Society in 1938

The celebrations took place from 4 to 8 in the afternoon. Ms. Dolfija, President of the Society’s Women’s Section, read the program and led the events. The guests sang a song that was written especially for this occasion … At 6 in the afternoon, the guests were invited to the table of honor. 52 candles burned on the table. 51 smaller candles symbolizing the years spent and one large candle as a symbol of future happiness. The guests made several short speeches paying tribute to Sri Swamiji Maharaja for his outstanding work.
Ms. Anna Plaudis is an active member of the women’s section. She puts a lot of effort into spreading spiritual knowledge in the West. She is a regular contributor to Divine Life magazine. For the birthday party, she has sent Swami Sivananda… a good wishes and a gift package – two Latvian national style men’s costumes with a national ornament and other folk art items … as well as white roses with a request to the secretariat to present the same fresh ones on the morning of the birthday.

Anna Dolfij’s speech in honor of Swami Sivananda’s birthday party 

 Excerpts from Harry Dickman’s article from the 1938 edition of the Divine Life Society’s “Miracle of Miracles”

“... For several years now, there has been a Yoga Society in our country, the aim of which is to teach the practical side of yoga. It could be clarified that the aim of the society is to teach real techniques of yoga as taught by the great teachers of India and not some American or European adaptation or pseudo-yogism.

We have read here His Holiness Sri Swami SivanandaJi Maharaj writings only recently. However, this acquaintance led to an amazing change in the activities of the Yoga Society. At present, the society actually functions as a branch of Rishikesh Sivananda’s “Divya Jivan” in terms of its activities and lectures. In one move, Swami Sivananda Maharaja conquered a large number of yoga students of the Latvian Yoga Society. The causes do not have to be sought far. The leaders of the association are no less, if not more, grateful to Sri Swamiji.

Here we taught several members of the Yoga Kriya Society. Hatha Yoga is currently being reborn in modern India. The leaders of the Latvian Society teach their students the basics of Hatha Yoga. The results have really been commendable. And in this connection, the writings of Sri Swamiji – such as “Yoga Asanas”, “Kundalini Yoga”, “Science of Pranayama” – were indeed sent by God. In addition, there was a need for mind culture and Adhjatmik yoga. And again, Sivananda’s “Yoga Practice” and his unique interpretation and teaching method of Raja Yoga as presented in his works “Mind, Its Secrets and Control” and “Raja Yoga” met our needs. In short, the Latvian Yoga Society gained a strong impetus with Sivananda’s teachings and looks to the future with confidence in seeking greater achievements in mental, ethical and spiritual culture ...”

There were many such translations by Harry Dickman and other active members of the society. Most of them were published only for the internal needs of the society in very small editions (including and even mostly typewriting editions, etc.). Most were small but content-rich brochures, but there were also translations of voluminous works (such as the translation of Sri Swami Sivananda’s remarkable works “The Mind, Its Secrets and Control”, “Concentration and Meditation”, “A safe path to success in life…” and others).

Cover of the book by Swami Paramananda “Yoga Science and Praxis ” translated by Harry Dickman

Cover of lecture materials for lectures given by Harry Dīkmanis – the material is intended for listeners. The year in which it was issued is not specified. There is currently no material to clarify this.  Harry Dickman and other active members gave lectures to many different interest groups and organizations during their more than 10 years of public activity.

Information from the journal of the Divine Life Society in 1939

In the January 1939 issue of the Divine Life Society, the Latvian Yoga Society and especially Harry Dickman were mentioned again in the European branches of the society. Among other things, it is written about him here:

He directs the Divyajivan Seva Sangh Yoga Section in Riga (Latvia) and has translated several important books by Sri Swami Sivananda Sarasvati … into Latvian … including practically all the books of the free distribution series of society (these were usually in the form of notebooks ranging in size from 5 to 6 pages of text to a few dozen pages in small print on specific topics of yoga philosophy and practice)… He knows Sanskrit and also Hindi. …”

Members of Latvian Yoga Society (H. Dīkmanis 1st from the right) together with Indian Yoga teacher (few days before beginning of WWII)