JANE FRYER: Are Charles and Camilla brave enough to do Downward Dog with the yoga ambassador? 


What a truly spectacular morning in the ancient forest of The Hermitage in Dunkeld, Scotland. The River Braan roars, filled with meltwater from the Cairngorms. Giant Scots pines sway and sigh above. The air is thick with the smell of damp fern and moss. Chunks of ice melt under the thin winter sun.

And there, on a giant rock next to the river, is Finlay Wilson, yoga ambassador to King Charles’ Prince Foundation, stripped to his very tapered waist and performing a series of advanced yoga poses, in a kilt.

First, he does Warrior I: legs spread, muscular arms stretched upwards, soft swirls of auburn hair on his glistening chest, and giant calves moving and flexing as he holds the position, deeper and deeper.

Then he does Wild Thing: a very flexible backbend with an outstretched arm that, well, makes my heart sing.

Flex it: Finlay Wilson, Yogic Ambassador for King Charles’s Prince’s Foundation, balancing on rocks in the River Braan

And finally Bird of Paradise, where he bends his left leg, places it over his left arm, twists slightly, and stretches it out behind him. Which is something to behold when performed in a kilt, worn in the full Scottish tradition.

It’s no surprise that the first luxury yoga and wellness retreat at King Charles’s Dumfries House in East Ayrshire, run by Finlay and her husband Alan Lambie, takes place today and involves yoga, meditation and some form of self-administered massage with tennis balls, sold out almost immediately, despite costing £500 a head.

Or that there is already feverish interest in more sittings at Highgrove and other royal residences, some indoors, some outdoors.

Or, indeed, that Finlay’s journal is rapidly filling up with private bookings for classes on remote Scottish islands and in castles, often with overly excitable Americans.

It is rumored that the Queen Consort herself is eager to turn her seances around when she and the King have a window. “She already does barre and ballet, so I wait,” says Finlay.

But of course she is interested. Yoga with a half-naked Scottish hunk? We all are! And it may be just what poor King Charles needs to cheer himself up after a challenging year.

Hunk in a headstand: The Mail's Jane doesn't know where to look when Finlay does a headstand

Hunk in a headstand: The Mail’s Jane doesn’t know where to look when Finlay does a headstand

‘I know a lot of guys who start at his age. It is never too late. Almost everyone I work with is over the age of 60. I like to focus on what people can do, not what they can’t do. And Charles is very forward-thinking, so I know he would be open to it,” says Finlay.

The 36-year-old has been creating waves in yoga circles for a while now. In addition to being one of the nicest people I’ve met in a long time, he’s a best-selling author, runs a yoga charity with his husband Alan called Heart Space, teaches all over the world, has launched an app with free content, sells at least 20,000 copies of its Kilted Yoga calendar a year, and campaigns around mental health.

But it’s his body that really makes hearts race, oddly enough, mostly women, even though they know he’s happily married to a man.

“I think there’s a level of romanticism in a man in a kilt, even if I’m in love,” he says. ‘Maybe it’s because I’m convinced they feel they can safely post the comments, but they get pretty racy.

‘I am very grateful for the “lock” feature [online].’

When she appeared via video link on ITV’s This Morning before Christmas for a festive fitness segment, wearing only a kilt, from the snowy Spittal of Glenshee in temperatures of minus 12C, things really heated up.

“The producers told me I’d be fine with a coat because it was so cold, then at the last minute everyone started yelling ‘Take off your shirt’.”

So he did.

In the studio, hosts Alison Hammond and Dermot O’Leary burst out laughing as viewers went into a Twitter frenzy, posting many ‘Hello!’ and comments of ‘That’s how I like to see my Scotsman’ accompanied by emojis of fires, love hearts and suggestive aubergines. “There were some very complimentary comments,” says Finlay.

‘My mother was shocked. She always wanted me to be a doctor.

The furor around Finlay really started in February 2017 when, just before teaching a yoga class, he posted a quick video on his social media account of himself and an equally handsome friend named Tristan both wearing kilts and performing poses. topless yoga class in Scottish nature.

First, he does Warrior I: legs spread, muscular arms stretched upwards, soft swirls of auburn hair on his glistening chest, and giant calves moving and flexing as he holds the position, deeper and deeper.

First, he does Warrior I: legs spread, muscular arms stretched upwards, soft swirls of auburn hair on his glistening chest, and giant calves moving and flexing as he holds the position, deeper and deeper.

“I love practicing in the woods, on the hills, on the beaches,” he says. “And I wanted to show that Scotland is awesome.” But it was not only the Caledonian landscape that attracted the attention of viewers.

The video was a thing of beauty: strong, graceful bodies moving in tandem, filmed by Finlay’s twin brother, Alastair, and accompanied by simple drums and flutes.

Right at the end, Finlay stands on her head and slowly, slowly, with a whisper of heavy tartan tweed, “it’s supposed to be a bit like the flow of a waterfall,” the kilt falls away to reveal a glimpse of surely the most perfect background on earth.

“It was kind of funny — yoga can sometimes feel a little more sacred than you,” she says.

An hour and a half later, when his class ended, Finlay checked his phone and thought the world had gone crazy. ‘It had over a million views!’ he says. “The next day there were three million.” Today, that post has had over 80 million views.

Of course, it firmly pushed him into the spotlight. He has been on television, on the radio, appeared on the Today Show in America and was interviewed by The New York Times.

Back here, he was everywhere, including on ITV’s Lorraine, where he handed his host a ‘happy birthday’ message painted on his trousers (yes, he was wearing some that day) during one last handstand, leaving Lorraine with the pink face and the public screaming for more.

But though he embraced the moment, he insists he wasn’t there for the money or the fame.

He saw it as an opportunity to talk about mental health issues in young men and teach them how to ask for help when they feel hopeless or even suicidal, like he and his twin brother sometimes do. And if people liked the look of his butt on the road, so be it.

For while Finlay looks like a Scottish woodland god today – chest up, beard trimmed to perfection, skin smooth and silky, muscles bulging as he moves through his yogic salutations – sadly, he knows more than most about the world. pain and suffering. And it was yoga that saved him.

Growing up in Lanark, he was terribly bullied. ‘About being ugly, about being stupid, about everything. It happened all through high school,” he says.

At the University of St Andrews, where he earned an MA in Classics and Geography and was away from his twin for the first time, things took a turn for the worse and he started drinking heavily. ‘Every day: vodka, wine, anything I can get my hands on. Usually it would have started at noon.

He was also a poor eater and overweight, deeply unhappy and desperate to come out as gay to his family, but somehow couldn’t. He eventually got so bad that he tried to take his own life.

And just when things couldn’t seem to get any worse, a rare medical condition meant he had to undergo operations on both legs, leaving him on crutches for over a year, causing nerve damage in one leg and damaging the lower back. lower back. As recovery time stretched on and on, he missed out on exams and college fun.

It was then that he was introduced to yoga, to help with pain and recovery. His first yoga teacher sounds awful, telling him not to do moves because he was “too fat,” but after finding a better one, the weekly sessions became daily.

That’s why he created Heart Space, where he still runs at least 16 classes a week, many free of charge, to inspire confidence in children, the elderly, the vulnerable, amputees and the disabled by showing them what they can do. Not what they can’t.

You can see why the Prince’s Foundation wanted him on board. He also does deep tissue massage and can size up a potential yogi at ten paces.

Including King Charles?

“Oh yes, her posture is already very good, you can tell by the way she holds her head.”

And while the King may not be quite ready for Wild Thing or Bird of Paradise, he has a lovely selection of kilts to practice on.

I have a Dumfries kilt too! Finlay says. “So if he comes in his, I would definitely dress to match.”

Ideally, however, Charles should wear trousers under his own, as managing not to display the full Scottish breakfast in a kilt yoga session is a skill few novices possess.

“It should never, ever be more than a tiny glimpse,” says Finlay. And with that, as the watery sun begins to sink and just before his hands and everything else turn blue, he ends with a final yoga sequence.

Feet up, calves big, thighs strong, slowly, slowly.

Until the kilt flutters and folds and then, finally, the promised cascade of pleats falls one by one, to reveal, just for a second, what all the fuss is about.