Reviewed by Antonella Townsend
What could be better than a bearded, handsome man in a kilt? Well, try a bearded, bare chested, handsome man in a kilt … up side down!
After the wild success of his U-Tube video, Finlay Wilson has released the book version of the same that is his fun take on yoga, dressed in a kilt, performed against the stunning backdrop of the Scottish highlands.
When thinking of yoga, kilts aren’t the preferred apparel that spring to mind. Furthermore, possible locations for yoga exercises would not, sensibly, include anywhere that was the natural habitat of thistles. Particularly if the ‘nothing worn under the kilt’ stories are true, and I might add, that some of the photographs in this book do suggest that that is the case. Ladies, Kilted Yoga is a ‘must-have’ coffee table book. Gentlemen, you will be inspired!
Finlay became famous for his, somewhat eccentric, outdoor-kilted yoga in 2016, when the BBC asked him to be part of The Social, an online platform featuring creative people in Scotland. Lanark is where Finlay grew up, enjoying the Scottish landscape during weekend hiking trips, with his father and brothers. As part of an old Scottish family, Findlay wore a kilt and jacket for special occasions, proudly acquiring his own tartan – Heartland – in his teens. Then, while recovering from a severe accident, and, two major operations on his legs, Finlay was introduced to yoga. So, to encapsulate his life, he opted for a lighthearted approach, combining yoga and kilts, filmed in a rugged Scottish landscape … and the rest is U-Tube history.
All gimmicks aside, this book is a work of art. The photographs are stunning, and, given the subject matter, quite captivating! But, more importantly, Kilted Yoga introduces the basics of the Ana Forrest system of yoga, which addresses the needs of modern-day people and their ailments. If the exercises appear difficult, take heart, Finlay attended his first lesson on mobility supports and could not manage any of the standing poses. His success is inspiring. (Although the publishers take the trouble to note that for some pre-existing conditions medical advice should be sought).
Breathing, while trying to sound like Darth Vader, with the intent of expanding the breath, is the starting point. Then, hands and feet stretches, with correct lower back stance, before postures for neck, shoulders and side bends. All so ‘doable’! Findlay, elegantly sprawled on the edge of a rock, while demonstrating poses, just adds to the entertainment value. It’s all going really well until you reach the impossible, one-leg balance, other leg bent backwards with toes at shoulder height, posture, as demonstrated by Findlay. Don’t panic, it is just intended to be an artistic visual break, before moving on to the next section ‘Serenity’.
‘Serenity’ poses are designed to aid freedom in breath and movement, including the famous ‘downward facing dog’, which is given new life when a kilt is involved. The next section ‘Strength’ is intended to strengthen legs, so aiding weak knees and poor balance. Excellent practice much needed for most of us.
Before the ‘Power’ section readers are treated to another dramatic photograph of Findlay. This time he is performing a handstand on the edge of a waterfall. This might inspire some readers, but most will have absolutely no ambition to emulate. The ‘Power’ section postures are intended to ‘explore the first edge of your resistance and wait for it to shift before going deeper’. So we move into postures like ‘turbo dog’. It might take awhile to get there, but be inspired by Finlay’s own persistence while in recovery mode after his operations.
Meditation is an important part of the Forrest method and is covered in four separate sections: ‘Sanctuary Meditation’, Sensory Meditation’, Breathing Meditation, and, Walking Meditation. The well-being that springs from these exercises has to be experienced to be believed. It is a vital part of the routine, so forming a complete system for physical and mental health.
Kilted Yoga is a fun, beautiful presentation of basic yoga, and also a work that, in the most entertaining way, will inspire readers to improve the quality of their lives.
I can’t think of a better Christmas present suitable for everyone.
By Finlay Wilson
Hodder & Stoughton, Hachette UK
ISBN – 9781473667846
159 pp; $19.99 (hardback)