The Irish Times - Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saving face

Forget about expensive face creams and Botox injections. SANDRA O’CONNELL attempts to rediscover her youth by enrolling in a four-day facial rejuvenation clinic in Turkey

SO THERE we were, me and the nice woman from the Guardian , with our hands on Marja Putkisto’s bottom. The idea was to witness how she – creator of a form of deep-stretch exercises called Method Putkisto and a household name in her native Finland – walked.

Our ambulation was all wrong, apparently. Just placing one foot in front of the other isn’t nearly enough. Putkisto’s version involved engaging the deepest muscles in her buttocks. Our instruction was to grope around until we could feel them in action.

For a split second it occurred to me that we were on Naked Camera , or the YouTube generation’s equivalent. Certainly, to the residents of the hotel looking down on our waterside exercise session, we must have looked a kinky bunch.

In fact there was nothing kinkier about it than the search for eternal youth – and, for a bunch of middle-aged women at least, what could be more natural than that?

We were in Turkey for Putkistor’s four-day facial rejuvenation clinic. The aim was to achieve a natural facelift, but somehow the focus had headed south, with a quick detour into ensuring our gluteus maximus didn’t become what she termed a gluteus blobius.

There is certainly nothing blobby about Putkisto. Whatever angle you approach from, she looks fab. At 50 years of age she is the best advertisement for her own techniques. The photographs on her own website don’t do her justice – in the flesh she looks 30.

But, as she has spent 25 years in the fitness industry, you’d expect her body to be well honed. It was the eight years of research she put into developing her facial exercise programme we were here to find out about.

The genesis of her idea was this: women spend billions each year on anti-ageing creams for their faces that, deep down, they know don’t really work. But to keep their bodies in shape they turn to exercise, which, they know equally intuitively, does. So why not develop an exercise programme for the face? That is precisely what Putkisto has done.

Which is why, as the sun bounced off the wild Lycian coast, we sat on beanbags scrutinising her for fine lines, a bunch of sceptical hacks who arrived announcing that our faces just weren’t something we thought all that much about. We lied, obviously. I doubt Putkisto ever had a more rapt audience.

So, ladies, given the constraints of time and space, do you want to hear about the gorgeous Deniz Feneri Lighthouse hotel we stayed in? The charming nearby town of Kas? Or do you want to know how to keep your face wrinkle free? Thought so.

First up are the eyes. Other than from sun damage, which is avoided with sun block, wrinkles apparently only occur around our eyes because we don’t use the muscles surrounding them sufficiently.

The answer to how to prevent this is a series of strengthening exercises designed to get you looking into the corner of your eyes, followed by tapping techniques to help tone up the area from your cheekbone to your brow. After that it’s a series of very gentle massages designed to redistribute the sagging contents of your face (“like wool under silk”), to plump up your cheeks and eradicate the bunny lines beside your nose manually.

From there it’s on to the mouth, rolling your lips round your teeth, positioning the bottom lip over the top and then smiling, to stop it drooping at the sides.

Turkey neck, caused by the collapse of the muscles designed to hold the scaffolding in front in place, is dealt with by further grimacing, stretching and even vocal vibrations.

Once that’s all sorted the course moves on to posture. The trick here is to prevent the neck from rounding its way down, millimetre by millimetre, to a dowager’s hump.

Posture is key because youthfulness has nothing to do with beauty, according to Putkisto, who says it’s all about freedom of movement.

Her primary message is that we don’t lose our ability to move freely with age. Rather we throw it away by gradually decreasing the number of movements we use in our daily lives, until we’re left shuffling and immobile. Our faces atrophy in just the same way, and no amount of Botox can prevent that. Only exercise.

Does the Method Putkisto facial exercise programme work? Ask me after 10 years of gurning and grimacing. Is it a great few days away? Absolutely.

  • Sandra O’Connell travelled with Turkey specialist Exclusive Escapes (00-44-20-86053500, exclusiveescapes.co.uk ), which is hosting Method Putkisto Natural Face Clinics on the Lycian Coast on October 2nd-6th and 6th-9th. The courses cost £1,750pp (€2,060) for four days and £1,550pp (€1,825) for three days, with no single supplement, and include half-board accommodation, return flights from London Heathrow or Gatwick, or Manchester, transfers and all course instruction

Turkish delight that's every bit as dramatic as the Almafi coast 
  • You don’t have to take part in a girly facial-rejuvenation clinic to enjoy this part of the world. Deniz Feneri Lighthouse is a boutique hotel – with just 27 rooms – laid out in a single storey around cobbled paths, making it feel a bit like a medieval hamlet. All have their own patios with views over the Kas peninsula, but most spectacular are the lighthouse villas – enormous, circular and airy, with bedrooms set high on a mezzanine. As well as the main restaurant, high up near reception, the hotel has a thatched waterside restaurant overhanging the sea.
  • The hotel is built into a steep hillside, so guests have to clamber down umpteen steps to get to the sea, a fitness programme in itself. But along the way are plenty of nooks and crannies with rattan rocking chairs, beanbags, hammocks or sunloungers. Swimming is off little jetties out to a pontoon.
  • The nearest airport is Dalaman, an enormous hanger of a place built to ply tourists to the new motorway that brings you on the two and a half hour transfer to Kas. The landscape along the way is like many a Greek island – indeed, the Greek isle of Kastellorizo is only a stone’s throw from the shore. Here, however, you have minarets instead of white churches and are woken to the sound, at 5.20am, of a muezzin’s call to prayer floating across from a nearby village. The last half hour of the drive is every bit as dramatic as on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, only without houses. Until relatively recently the main way into Kas was by boat, which explains why stretches are deserted.
  • The sea is still a major part of Kas’s appeal, and to make the most of it guests at the hotel get a day’s free sailing in a gulet , a traditional Turkish sailing boat. The hotel also runs a free minibus service to and from Kas town, a 10-minute drive away, though the local public-transport dolmus, which runs hourly, will pick you up and drop you off at the gate, amid the local shoppers and schoolchildren, which is much more fun.
  • The town has a laid-back, almost hippy feel, centred around a harbour where working fishing boats sit cheek by gill with diving charters. The main plaza has a shady tea house, while the tiny streets off it have shops packed to the rafters with carpets and handicrafts by day, with the fairy lights of outdoor fish restaurants sparkling to life at night. High above it all are cliffs into which the locals have been hewing rock tombs for millennia, while the town itself is peppered with fourth-century Lycian sarcophagi standing on three-metre-high plinths.
  • The most impressive point, however, is just outside town, past the hospital, where a Roman amphitheatre, fully intact and capable of seating 4,000, sits facing out to sea without fuss – or, indeed, signage. It’s a beautiful spot for a picnic. For visitors looking for more activity, the big attraction is to take a glass-bottomed sea kayak out over ancient villages sunken by volcanoes. Back on land, the mountains surrounding the town are great for hiking and mountain biking, but when we asked at the local tourist office if there was a guided walking tour of the town we could take, they looked at us as if we had two heads. It’s a mark of just how untouristy a destination Kas is. That’s a large part of its appeal.

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