For newbies, yoga can feel intimidating. But the beauty of yoga is that you don’t need to fit a certain image or wear $150 stretch pants to practice. In fact, you don’t even need to be wearing pants at all.
Scottish YouTube sensation Finlay Wilson, aka the Kilted Yogi, has garnered a serious Instagram following doing yoga in a kilt everywhere from the Highlands to Chichén Itzá, and producing content for BBC’s The Social. In less than five days, his viral video racked up 43 million views, proving that people are interested in watching men in kilts doing yoga.
“With kilted yoga, my goal is to make yoga accessible to everyone,” he says. At his Dundee studio, where he practices a modern style called Forrest yoga, he also teaches young people with special needs and disabilities for free.
Each class starts with an intent that carries throughout the entire session like a chorus. “The sequences are composed like pieces of music — nothing is arbitrary,” he explains. “There is a beginning, a middle, and an end.” With his new book Kilted Yoga, he offers advice for newcomers to the practice, breaking down the fundamentals into four progressive sequences.
Here he shares some tips for getting comfortable on the mat and the benefits of moving beyond your comfort zone.
For his book, Wilson sought out locations that connect the images to nature, since one benefit of yoga is that it can make you feel more in tune with your body and your environment. “There are cows in this picture I took for Instagram one day, but the pose is actually called horse,” he says.
“This side bend gives you access to the strength of your legs versus a seated side bend where people collapse under,” he says. “This pose lets you stretch the lower back in a way that is great for creating a sense of space.”
“Yoga can help change how your body feels and create opportunities to feel differently about your own potential and about what is possible,” says Wilson. In other words, when you need to attack challenges in your day, it can make you ready to slay, Braveheart style.
“Archer warrior II strengthens your leg muscles, while also engaging the chest and upper-back muscles,” he says. “If you find that your shoulders are very tight, you can grab hold of a strap to bring your hands closer together.”
“Even when you can’t make it to the studio, you can do yoga pretty much anywhere, or with anyone, even your dog,” Wilson says. “Dancer is a standing balance, and the hard part is that all of the action is happening outside of your field of vision, so you have to be hyper-aware of your body and the small shifts that happen.” He adds, “It can be quite a deep back bend, but for me, I always feel the strengthening in my standing leg.”
“You see this variation on a vertical split a lot in the land of Instagram yoga,” says Wilson. “However, it still has value. It’s a hybrid pose that gives you a very strong hamstring stretch, gets into [the] quadriceps of the lifted leg, and is a strong single-leg balance.”
For Wilson, yoga has helped him soldier on past injuries. “Physically, I carry a lot of pain in my body and my practice gives me a way to manage that and attend to the needs of my body each day,” he says.
Different poses fire up different muscles — and some push you in unexpected ways. As you advance in your practice, you can build up to challenging poses, but it’s perfectly normal to stumble on your first try.
“Firefly is a challenging arm balance in a standing forward bend,” he says. “Everything starts with basics and builds.” When you’re new, it can also be hard to tell which muscles you’re activating. “What’s really lifting you up in this pose is the strength of your core and inner thighs.”
“I love yoga because it gives me the ability to reset daily,” says Wilson. Since most of us spend our days crouched over a computer or smartphone, stretching our backs and shoulders can help release the tension of the day. “Queen pigeon is a big back bend that strengthens the back muscles, while also giving two different ranges of movement for the shoulders,” he says.
Get started with your practice or take it further with Openfit’s Yoga52, a collection of 52 elegantly produced yoga classes from beginner to expert taught by five of the world’s leading yoga instructors.