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Wellness Around the World: Latvian Summer Solstice

latvian summer solstice celebrationMy name is Datza and I was born and raised in Latvia. I’m currently a teacher and owner of Datza Studios here in cozy Eastlake neighborhood. Latvia is a tiny country by the Baltic Sea, just across from Sweden, east of Poland and west of Russia. Yasss, we were part of Soviet Union but we have way a different language and culture. Proud to be pagans, proud to be Latvians!

I love love my country but somehow life brought be me to US. First, it was east coast for a few summers and a little over 15 years ago – Seattle. Change is constant and life thrives on change; it is the essence of the 2nd chakra and the story of my life. It’s also one the main teachings of Yoga (union of mind, body and soul).

Yoga for me is more than just asanas, yoga is the practice through which we are able to liberate ourselves and create the freedom we desire (in the yoga universe we call it Moksha). I’m more than grateful for my Yoga Teacher Training at Samadhi where most of the teachings were about yoga philosophy and most of the practice teaching was done after the regular hours with friends, other trainees and our mentor. Shout out to Jennifer Isaacson, Kathleen Hunt and Steve Shiva!

garden yogaIt’s been over 10 years since I was introduced to yoga and I constantly find similarities between yoga and my upbringings in Latvia. As pagans, we believe that there are higher spirits and nature Gods who guide us, who help us, and who can also destroy us, if we are ignorant to their messages. Yoga sutras states:  “Ignorance is the seed of the suffering.” We have our Earth, Wind, Sun and other gods similar to Hinduism where there is Kali, Shakti, Shiva etc. We have Latvian mythology symbols weaved into our clothing, put in our houses, and even on our bodies. We accept that mood and energy levels change, and when we get sick the first treatment would be natural remedy – herb tea, mixture etc. Ayurveda would be the word we know here and is a sister of yoga!

We have always been taught to live in the moment – the power of NOW. We believe that happiness is freedom and you become more free by getting together and singing and dancing (which is pretty much a must for every event), whether it’s a name day, birthday or other festivity. Every 4 years we have a National Song and Folk festival when Latvians from our country and abroad come together for a week and express themselves through singing and movement.

Did you know that Latvian language is one of the closest languages to Sanskrit? Did you know that we still celebrate summer solstice and it’s a national holiday? Summer solstice celebration is the biggest festivity in Latvian culture, same as the Deities celebration in Hinduism (celebrating deities like Kali, Shiva etc.)

latvian summer solstice attireIn Latvia we call it “Jani” and it is always the night from June 23 to June 24 when all Latvians participate in joyous festivities just like the ancestors did centuries ago. “Jani” celebration dates back to middle ages and is a celebration of nature and the changing of seasons mixed with all traditions.

Yes, it is a national holiday!  Everyone tries to get out in the country to their relatives and our friends and just eat, drink, dance and sing.

I can tell you for hours and go in details but to keep it short yet sweet, there are few things which are just plain mandatory and you will find during the celebration:

  1. Bonfire – definitely the hallmark of the festivities. We sit by the bonfire and wait for the sun to come up. Late in the evening when the bonfire becomes smaller, we jump over it which signifies ridding people of their burdens. Couples jump together and the magical force of the flames binds them for life. The bonfire also helps to keep the insects away.
  2. Latvian food– must have “Jani”cheese (a sour cheese made with caraway seeds) and beer. Gotta keep our bodies alive all night long!
  3. Garlands for everyone made of oak leaves or wild flowers – they were believed to have magic powers during the summer solstice. Houses are also decorated with birch oak and rowan branches to keep the evil spirits away.
  4. “Field Trip Into the Woods” – it is believed that the Summer Solstice night is the only night when one can see the mysterious and mythical fern flower. No one really has seen it yet, but it is a great excuse for couples to wander into the unknown. The fact is, 9 month later there are lots of newborns.
  5. Stay up till the Sunrise – we are up in the North and daylight on the “Jani” night is only a few hours. If you end up falling asleep by the time the sun rises, you will be sleepy all summer long and who wants that? At dawn, one should find water and wash their face in order to have a fresh glow all summer long. Walking through the morning dew is said to bring wealth.

summer solstice bonfireSummer Solstice from early childhood has been the highlight of the year because finally we could stay up all night, wander around in nature and see family and friends getting silly, yet happy.

I’m more than stoked to announce that we will be celebrating the Summer Solstice and National Yoga Day on Friday, June 21st at our Studio – Datza Studios.

Most of our studio teachers will be there to guide you through their own variation of Sun Salutations since the Sun is what we celebrate on Summer Solstice. In between, Teju (professional story teller from India who is going back on her travels after the event) will educate us on Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and Destroyer (Shiva) and how it is linked with the summer solstice even though down in India they don’t celebrate it (too close to the equator).

The best part – you will feel and look good since after the practice there will be a Nordstrom beauty pop-up with oxygen facials and other goodies.

For more info & to register, follow this link.


Datza Telmane is a local yoga teacher and owner of Datza Studios in Eastlake.