Your Body: Working Out with PeiJu Chien-Pott

At home and on tour, this Martha Graham Dance Company principal stays centered with yoga––on her iPad.

 

 

Chien-Pott in Nacho Duato’s Depak Ine. Photo by Yi-Chun Wu.

 

PeiJu Chien-Pott doesn’t have much time for cross-training. As a principal with the Martha Graham Dance Company, plus a wife and a mother to a 4-year-old daughter, her schedule quickly fills up. So even though her ideal workout is Bikram yoga—she likes the feel of the heat on her muscles and joints after intense rehearsals—taking class is a rare luxury.

 

Her solution? A 15-minute sun salutation or an hour-long strengthening practice at home with the Yoga.com Studio iPad app. Year-round Graham movement stresses her lower back and knees, so she relies on downward dogs and child’s poses to find relief. “When I don’t practice yoga, my muscles get very tense and blocked,” she says.

 

Without a live instructor to guide her, Chien-Pott takes extra care to tune in to her body: “I stop if something doesn’t feel right—it’s not worth getting injured.” Generally she avoids poses that uncomfortably strain her knees, such as Virasana, or “hero pose,” which requires kneeling with the knees together but the feet on the outsides of the hips.

 

In addition to helping her achieve muscular balance, yoga also helps Chien-Pott clear her head. She has come to truly enjoy the solitude of her private practice alone with her iPad: “The breathing exercises calm me down, focus my concentration and bring me back to myself.”

 


Chien-Pott never goes on tour without her yoga mat—a thick mat actually designed for Pilates work. “It’s so much more cushy and comfortable for me.”

 

Tired Legs TLC

When Chien-Pott’s body is exhausted, she eases into a hot bath. “My husband thinks it’s funny, but I talk out loud directly to my legs, saying, ‘I love you, my legs!’ ”

 

Her Portable Yoga Studio

Yoga.com Studio, available for iPad and iPhone, contains 45 preset programs as well as 3-D muscle images, which show which muscle groups are working in each pose. The app allows users to design personalized programs, choosing from a catalog of 300 poses. Here are Chien-Pott’s go-to routines.

 

For full-length workouts: Shakti Yoga: Strong Legs (70 min.) or Advanced Prana Shakti Yoga (51 min.). Strong Legs is an intermediate-level, fitness-oriented series, designed to fully strengthen and stretch the legs, with plenty of lunging, forward-bend stretches, pigeon poses and single-leg balances. Prana Shakti includes more advanced poses, like rotated warrior three pose, inverted crane pose and full upward bow pose.

To stretch before bed or to gently energize before class: Sun Salutation for Longevity (14 min.). The most advanced salutation series the app offers, it is designed with continuous flow and breathing in mind. With plenty of lunges, downward and upward dogs, warrior poses and standing mountain pose, and ending with the relaxing corpse and half-lotus poses, this program gets the blood flowing and centers the body.

 

Favorite pre-class poses: Halasana, or “plow pose” (lying on your back, lift legs up and behind your head, with hips lifted high), and Utthita Ashva Sanchalanasana, or “low lunge,” keeping the back leg straight and chest lifted.

Latest Posts


Martha Graham and Paul Taylor in Clytemnestra. Photo by Martha Swope, courtesy MGDC

The Graham Company Is Making Quarantine Magic With its Archives

Martha is having her YouTube moment. Who can resist the sight of the modern dance icon donning 3-D glasses for the Wednesday Martha Matinees, a marvelous hump day mix of vintage and recent performances? These are just one of many outstanding pieces of digital programming coming out of the Martha Graham Dance Company since the lockdown, which have also included the world premiere of Immediate Tragedy (a lost 1937 solo reimagined for the internet), company member Lloyd Knight's lively interviews with the dancers and a robust Instagram network of Graham technique classes.

This is not only Martha's moment, but Janet Eilber's as well, as she has been creating historical context for the company's work since she took the helm. Fans are well acquainted with Eilber's vast insights during her pre-show curtain talks, but now she is putting her Graham smarts to work in a way for us all to learn.

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS