When Christine Chen was a broadcast journalist, she never dreamed she would become a yoga teacher. She was just looking for a way to get rid of a serious neck pain that was interfering with her whole life. Drastic situations call for life-changing measures. So even though Chen was more at home kickboxing or doing high impact cardio, she turned to yoga to help her heal. And it was the beginning of a whole a whole new way of life – and career.
While she admits to being a “bad yogi,” at first, eventually something clicked, transforming her one asana at a time into “yoga girl.” Since then the fourty something, vibrant and dare-devil Chen, has become well known for striking a yoga pose just about anywhere, whether on the air, heading uptown on the A train, or riding atop camel.
YogaCity NYC's Dar Dowling recently sat down to talk with Christine about her life before and after yoga, and her latest adventure publishing her new book called Happy-Go-Yoga.
Dar Dowling: How did you get to your first yoga class?
Christine Chen: I started practicing in 1999, and hated it. I really wasn’t in the right head space. At the time I was a news anchor in Seattle and completely stressed out - more into kick boxing and other high impact stuff. I didn’t know that these quiet ancient practices could speak so loudly in my life.
Around the same time I had a really bad neck problem. It was so bad that when I was on the air I would lie down during commercial breaks. My doctor said that I would have to have surgery. There was no way I could do that, and keep working even though I was in a lot of pain. So over the course of about 2 years I was in and out of yoga. I had read about the benefits of yoga, and then I actually began feeling the benefits for myself.
DD: Is it true you used to skip savasana?
CC: I fought yoga for years, and for a long time I was a terrible yogi. I was that girl who left before savasana, because I didn’t really see any value in it. When we stopped moving, I was out the door. Now I love savasana – can't wait for it, because it feels so good and is a full acceptance of the moment. Over time, yoga pretty much changed my life. It built up my muscles, reduced my pain, and my mind shifted to a more peaceful place. I got more out of yoga than going to the gym, so I stopped going. I did a real 180 - I went from being the girl who ran out of class early to being yoga girl.
DD: Did anything happen to help that along?
CC: For years I was on the morning shift, which was hard on my body. Then I moved to the night shift, moving me from a place of triage to a place where I could really start to enjoy yoga, since I was actually getting sleep and felt better. Everything started to click. I decide I needed to know more about yoga, so I started going to class 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day.
At the time I was running my own consulting firm, and took the teacher training. Then I started teaching yoga part time. When I moved to New York I wanted to become a full time teacher, but I had no idea how competitive the yoga world was here. I'm really grateful that NY Loves Yoga, where I still teach, saw something in me and gave me a chance.
DD: I've heard that you're known for breaking out into a yoga pose on the street– true or false?
CC: True! When I started shifting my life around and getting deeper into yoga I would do poses everywhere because I needed to move, and couldn’t stand too long. Back then it was unusual, especially in Seattle, but it was a part of my healing. I might do a triangle pose in the airplane aisle, or a standing version of pigeon pose pose on commercial breaks when I was anchoring the news. I did it all the time, and didn’t care what people thought.
DD: The inspiration for your new book was a real NYC moment – can you talk about that?
CC: Yes, in Seattle I drove a lot, so when I came to NYC I wasn’t used pounding the pavement, so when I was on the subway I would do poses too. One day I was doing a half moon in the train car, and a woman asked what I was doing. Then she started following along, saying “ I feel so good”, and another woman who was watching said in typical NYC fashion “you need to do a book”. That was that, one of my students is an editor, who connected me with an agent. Now my book is coming out in March 2015, it's a dream come true.
DD: What kind of book is it?
CC: Well, I'd say its serious, informative, yet fun. I've adapted traditional yoga poses making them totally accessible, so you can connect this practice to your everyday life, in a real way, whether you're on the train, at work or doing chores.
There are chapters like like "Happy-Plus-One" (for couples and close relationships, which includes poses like "Lover's Lift," for moments you're not "in the mood"), "Sunny Side Up" (for morning wake up, which includes "Flap and Fly," to reduce tiredness and depression) and “Chill, Homies" (for home chores, including "Laundry Lift," which is based on Goddess).
I wrote it so that its tone and spirit reflect the way I teach my classes. I really want people to love it because I don’t think you will do anything repeatedly without really loving it.
DD: What's next?
CC: I'm have several events and workshops coming up over the next few months, including Monthly FLY: First Steps to Flight, a how-to inversions workshop for beginners at Laughing Lotus. Then there are two book related events – a Feel Better, Be Happier Workshop at NY Loves Yoga (UWS), which is a Happy-Go-Yoga workshop, which includes a book signing with wine reception on March 15th and then a Happy-Go-Yoga Mashup with Dana Flynn, on March 20th with cake and book signing at Laughing Lotus NY in Chelsea.
To learn more about the workshops and Christine’s teaching schedule visit her website.