Learning to walk with Marja Putkisto in Turkey
‘Marja was especially smiley and upbeat, and her trainers compassionate sorts who seemed to genuinely care about those in their charge’
Caroline Sylger Jones takes part in a Method Putkisto holiday at The Dionysos Estate in Turkey
‘Method Putkisto was an unusual, slightly bizarre, quite deep and ultimately effective way of helping me focus on rehabilitating the tight, sore back I’d developed over two years following the birth of my baby girl. Despite daily yoga, lots of swimming and weekly coastal walks, the lifting, twisting and carrying of an increasingly heavy little morsel had taken its toll, and strangely, it was the very week before my trip to Turkey that my back decided to protest loudly and once and for all. Stop! it screamed, and achieved its aim by causing me excruciating pain for two days and doubling me over like a granny. Should I go to Turkey? I asked a physio. Oh yes! she said. You can take pain killers for the journey and being away from everything will help. Didn’t like the sound (or the effect) of the painkillers but I agreed. At least there would be sun.
The journey started with me standing on the train from Devon to London for three hours as it hurt to sit. For the flight I’d been upgraded to business class though, so we experienced a speedy check in and, at the other end, were whisked through a private terminal to our car and the twisty and turny two-hour drive to the hotel. My back pain came and went, but luckily I had my friend Jools with me to make me smile. Things perked up considerably on arrival, when I spotted The Dionysos Estate’s gorgeously serene infinity pool overlooking the bay of Kumlubük. Privately owned and peaceful, this canyon-top hotel is set on the Lycian coast and feels beautifully remote.
I was in Kavak Two, quite high up in the resort, and I liked the steep walk up and down as it made me feel I was escaping somewhere very private each time I went to my room. It was a simple, spacious and light refurbished space, decked out in cream and shades of green, with little Turkish pots and artifacts scattered around, and outside, two little directors chair from which to admire the view over the bay. The shower was pretty basic, but the bed was marvellously just-firm-enough and I slept well throughout the week here, despite my back pain, the resonant hoot of an owl the only sound to penetrate my dreams.
There were 17 of us in total, all women, and of very mixed backgrounds and abilities. Most were professional women travelling alone, and a few, like me, were with girlfriends. One was recovering from ME, another had had a breast reduction, another had given up smoking, another had an injured foot she was trying to rehabilitate. All desired bodily change in one way or another, as well as a proper holiday in the sun. Only three were familiar with the Method already, though one had come back to do the same holiday for the sixth year running, which is always a good sign. You all share the first and last meal together, but are able to sit alone or with one or two others during the week – whatever you feel like.
Each day, we had a two-hour morning and evening Method Putkisto class – mostly on an outdoor deck looking over the canyon and bay below, once on the beach. Classes were led by Marja and helped along by two Putkisto-trained teachers, Louisa (who teaches in Luxembourg) and Lucy (who teaches in Chicester in the UK). It took me a lesson or two to tune into to Marja’s Finnish accent, so it was especially useful to have Louisa and Lucy to help explain things. I genuinely liked them all – Marja was especially smiley and upbeat, and all were compassionate sorts who seemed to genuinely care about those in their charge. In between classes you are left alone to do what you like, and wednesday was a day off.
Marja’s deep and precise exercise method is designed to give you a functional, stable body whatever activity or sport you like to do. If I hadn’t been in pain, I would have found the slowness of the classes quite difficult to deal with, for I’m used to doing quite concentrated yoga on a healthy holiday and am rather a restless sort (which probably contributed to my mummy back pain in the first place). It took me a while to accept that the classes are slow because they concentrate not on sweaty exercise, but on increasing your body’s mobility and functionality for the better. It’s especially effective for people who have an isolated area of pain or body issue.
Each movement looks at pinning the body on the ‘centre line’ which runs down the front of your spine – so you can feel the relation of your body parts to each other, and your relation to the space around you. The idea is this will help you move more freely and safely, whatever activity or exercise you like to do, and that you use gravity, rather than force – so movement is seen as the transfer of weight from one point to another, rather than something that involves effort.
Some of the movements are very gentile – floating your hands prettily up and down whilst focusing on your centre line, or criss crossing your elbow to the opposite knee as you stand up tall and straight. Others contain elements of the bizarre – at one point, we were asked to ‘allow our personalities to come forward’ by lifting chins up and out and relaxing our chests. At another, we were told to imagine we were wearing a giant golden Egyptian helmet set diagonally on top of our heads to help with our posture. I kind of liked it. Why not? Yoga is very visual too.
There was intensity, of course, too – though I confess I took things very easy because of my back. We were told not to try to grasp everything, just to relax and do, for, says Marja, ‘people learn beyond what they understand’. After a while this worked for me (helped along by a detailed private session with Marja to focus on my back), though I wasn’t convinced by the amount of pair work involved – as the Method is so precise, it felt like the blind leading the blind some of the time.
There was an excellent two hour ‘face clinic’ towards the end of the week, which introduced us to exercises you can use as a natural antidote to the ageing effects of computer work. Scrunching, pulling and moving the face in particular ways helped us (apparently) to balance facial muscles, reduce stress and realign the upper body and head – you can buy a DVD at the retreat to continue at home.
During the course of the week I felt the exercises slowly help to ease and reduce my back pain and increase my mobility. I especially liked the little spiky ball we used to roll our feet around on at the start of each class – like a lovely dose of DIY foot reflexology. What resonated with me most was our lesson on the beach, barefoot in the sand, learning how to walk properly: engage the buttock muscles, pull in the core, slightly tilt the pelvis, swing the arms and move the upper body naturally from side to side, mentally propel the sacrum forward, keeping the head up. Every time I do my coastal walking now, I think of this. A few months on, my back is a whole lot better, mainly because I’ve stopped picking and lifting my little one in awkward ways.
During the week I had two excellent tailored massages in an outdoor treatment room with English therapist Anna Glinka, who used hot and cold stones and her hands to ease out all my tight muscles and soothe my mind. Facials and beauty treatments are also available using Decléor and Elemis products. There’s a small gym, and an outdoor hot tub – it’s plastic, and the area around it could do with prettifying, but it was deeply pleasant to sit in and chat to Jools. There are plans for a hammam – meanwhile, you can book a traditional massage in a simple hammam in the local town of Turunc, which two women in our group enjoyed visiting (tel 0090 544 517 18 08, from 60 Turkish Lira for a massage). There are also hammams in Marmaris, though that’s a 45 boat trip away and you’d need to book in advance for the Wednesday (the day off).
There are lots of things to do during down time – such as a shopping trip by boat to the city of Marmaris (which apparently does a fine line in fake handbags), lunch at the estate’s olive farm or an all day boat trip. Jools and I were there to just hang out, so we read, sunbathed, swam a lot, went for walks, had massages, chatted and watched the view, while my back pain came and went. I particularly liked the 40 minute trail walk from the resort to Amos amphitheatre, from where you can walk along the road to the beach. Here, the Dionysos Estate has a private beach club with a café – we had it to ourselves on a particularly grey day, and enjoyed some freshly squeezed orange juice and coffees while we chatted and brain-stormed about our mutual businesses.
The price includes a simple buffet breakfast of fruits, cereals and a choice of eggs, plus a choice from a set menu for dinner each evening day. You need to buy your own lunch each day – there are salads and wraps on offer at about £8-£12 a dish. The traditional turkish dishes, estate olive oil and fresh eggs, and the home made turkish breads were utterly delicious. For the health conscious the green vegetable option tends to be salad, and rice is usually available instead of potatoes – on our visit, the fish and meat were delicious and tender, though the only simple grilled fish to be had was on the a la carte menu. If you’re here to detox, be warned – half a carafe of (decent) wine is included each evening.
What’s queenly: The gorgeous infinity pool, and the 40 minute trail walk from the hotel to Amos amphitheatre. The precise, unusual Method Putkisto movements help you slow down and refocus on your body, and a concentrated dose of them is ideal for people who have an isolated area of pain or a body ‘issue’. Marja also gave us some ‘alkaline salts’ to use on our faces, our bodies, even on our teeth during the week – they were brilliant, and made my skin really soft and clean.
What’s lowly: This comfortable canyon-top hotel is in an uplifting location, though you will share the space with regular hotel guests and eat at set meal times.
Need to know: The holidays run at the Dionysos Estate in Turkey and the Runni Spa in Iisalmi, a town in the Savo region of Finland. There are classes and workshops at the Putkisto institute in Richmond, Surrey and around the UK and Europe – Lucy Noble offers Method Putkisto classes in Chichester and Petersfield, Method Putkisto walking classes in the South Down hills north of Chichester, and weekend breaks in Chichester with Method Putkisto classes, walking with poles and accompanied walking tours around the city.
Costs: A week-long Method Putkisto break at the Dionysos Estate with Turkey costs from £1500 pp including return flights to Dalaman, transfers, seven nights’ half board accommodation, a day’s sea cruise and all instruction.
What Jools thought: ‘I really loved my week in Turkey. October was the perfect time to get away for some sun and rest before facing the winter ahead. I really enjoyed the classes and learning a completely new and different way of moving my body. It often felt like nothing was really happening in class, but the effects of the Putkisto bodywork were actually quite profound. My posture and flexibility changed dramatically during the week and I definitely felt leaner and more lifted, just as was promised in the blurb we were sent before we left’.
© Queen of Retreats