How NYC Yoga Teacher Christine Chen Let Go of Her Bullsh*t
I had the pleasure of sitting down with my friend and fellow Yogi, Christine Chen, and discovering what she’s done to let go of her bullsh*t and emerge as a New York City yoga teacher and author of Happy-Go-Yoga, her first book that offers healing advice based on years of self healing and letting go.
The two of us met and still teach at NY Loves Yoga on the Upper West Side. We have always talked about yoga and life, taught workshops together, and shared the same love of offering flow classes that are good for the soul. I had never learned exactly how Christine met her yoga practice and came to write Happy-Go-Yoga.
Prior to moving to New York City, Christine worked as a broadcast journalist, a high stress job that had her working odd situations, often during weird hours, including overnights. Out in the field and in the studio, non-ergonomic, non-supportive furniture and circumstances, plus the extreme stress and a lack of sleep manifested as a series of illnesses and terrible back problems.
Her problems started in her lower back with a torn degenerative lumbar disc, and over time, she developed another back condition in her cervical spine, including degeneration and herniated discs, cervical stenosis, and eventually lumbar arthritis leaving her in pain and closed off physically, spiritually, and energetically.
Christine found yoga in 1999. “I’d heard yoga could be good for stress relief, weight loss, and back pain,” she said. “I tried it, then I was in and out of it for almost two years before I really started to like it.” She spent most of her early yoga classes in child’s pose, claiming “I really couldn’t move out of fear of being in pain.” Plus, yoga was the opposite of other things she’d been doing (like cardio kickboxing). She resisted this quiet practice. Then, she had a big realization: “The opposite of a high-octane life is exactly what I was missing. I started trying all kinds of styles, but I found a studio four blocks from my house in Seattle, Yogalife, and I was able to go more since it was close. I also loved the studio, teachers, and healing atmosphere.”
Once she took her practice seriously, Christine’s body began to heal and transform. What she wasn’t expecting was how yoga began to weave its way into her life. “When I couldn’t get to class, I would take pieces of my practice and put them into everything, and then yoga started to be everything.” She was having fun bringing yoga into her everyday life; sitting up straighter at work, having more breath awareness during a potentially stressful situation, doing poses during commercial breaks, and just enjoying life more by simplifying things.
Another unexpected change was the opening of her heart. At first Christine thought that she was having trouble backing bending because of her spine problems, but this was not the case. Christine told me, “I used to think I couldn’t backbend because of my spine problems, but I learned that I needed to heal my heart. I didn’t have space in my heart to open up. Once I felt more receptive and loving toward myself – forgiving myself for imperfections and shortcomings – the heart openers happened in yoga, the backbends came, and the physical and emotional healing became real.”
Once this opening happened, there was no looking back. Christine started to eliminate toxic relationships, began to treat herself better, and through this process of opening and self love, she eventually met the love of her life, her husband, Richard.
Yoga created internal changes, which eventually became external changes, including a career change in the mid-2000s – Christine left broadcasting and became a corporate consultant, giving more time to herself, her yoga practice, and living a life where she was calling the shots. She made her own schedule, got some sleep, de-stressed, and had time to truly enjoy the holidays, family, and friends.
Eventually Christine’s love for yoga and a healthier life led her to make yoga a bigger part of her life. At first she had no interest at all in teaching. “How can I teach if I can’t handle someone like me?” Years after her first yoga class and many child’s poses later, she entered her first yoga teacher training and STILL had no desire to teach until the end.
She admits today that through teacher training, she discovered she was holding back sharing her experiences and helping others out of fear. Considering how much her teachers helped her through this big life change, could she do the same?
Once embracing and stepping on her path as a teacher of Yoga, health, and wellness, her life took off. Christine now works privately with clients, specializing in helping people new to yoga, and also teaches all over New York City. She’s a beloved teacher at Laughing Lotus, where community is part of the healing.
Despite her award-winning career in broadcast journalism, she says she is most proud of sharing the health, wellness, and healing information in “Happy-Go-Yoga.” The book’s subtitle speaks the truth of Christine’s journey: Anywhere, Anytime, Anyone – simple poses to relieve pain, reduce stress and add joy.
I feel fortunate to have a friend that is so passionate and dedicated as Christine. I chuckle as I close this article, because I know that this is only the beginning. But, she had to start by opening her heart and letting go. It was a long road, but she had to let go of her bullsh*t.