Earlier this year, Emmy-award winning journalist, author and yoga instructor Christine Chen joined us as the host of Esalen Live! on Facebook. Christine interviews Esalen faculty and change agents about timely topics — coping with the pandemic, perspectives on racial justice, and overall well-being.
"I am honored to be trusted with guiding conversations on behalf of Esalen," Christine says. "I don’t take lightly the storied history of Esalen, the land it occupies, and how that intertwines with where we are going as a society. Studying the human experience is not new for Esalen, but doing it in the digital realm is unfamiliar territory. It feels expansive and I’m excited to be a part of this transformative time. I hope that Esalen Live! generates thoughtfulness about our differences while shedding light on our shared experiences, too."
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Christine is the first branch of her family tree to sprout in the United States — her parents immigrated from Taiwan in the 1960s. She vividly recalls her fondness for American media of the 1970s and ’80s.
"As the daughter of immigrants, it was through watching television and listening to Top 40 that I learned American culture," she says. "The same was true for my father. When he came to San Francisco in 1962, one way he learned English was listening to the Tony Bennett record, I Left My Heart in San Francisco. I still have the actual record in a box. To this day, that song goes straight to my heart. I play it in yoga classes sometimes and always seem to find myself in a breath practice with the image of wispy fog drifting through the Golden Gate Bridge."
After graduating from UC Berkeley with a double major in English and Mass Communications and landing her first broadcast job in Montana, Christine went on to create an impressive career in front of the camera. As a news anchor in Seattle and host of About the Money on Seattle’s PBS station, she developed a unique ability to connect with her guests. She went on to nab two Emmy Awards and 10 nominations for her work both as a reporter and an anchor.
Years later, Christine realized she had to focus on her own well-being. Faced with severe back pain, she sought out yoga, which quickly moved beyond exercise into a full-blown career and lifestyle reboot.
"I left broadcast to find optimal health,” she shares. “Between stress, chronic bad news, and an inherently unhealthy lifestyle, I had amassed a big medical file by my thirties. My doctor told me if I didn’t change my life I’d be on track to an early death. Today, on the other side, my recovery through specific, informed choices and consistency drives my passion to share health and well-being information."
With a fervent desire to empower people to be their best selves, Christine went on to become a yoga instructor. After a move to New York with her husband, she developed significant followings in Chelsea and the Upper West Side, and was a featured presenter in Times Square and Bryant Park.
"I often heard students say, ‘I’m not flexible,’ and that yoga is about perfecting poses," she says. "I love practicing poses, but there is so much more to yoga. You don’t have to be flexible — just be a little willing to explore."
From there, Christine’s yoga universe greatly expanded. She is the founder of Spellbound Yoga, a 300-hour yoga school and guides new teachers to elevate their offerings with mudras, mantras, aromatherapy, and storytelling. She is also the best-selling author of Happy-Go-Yoga: Simple Poses to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Add Joy.
When racial issues commanded the spotlight this year, Christine, like many, were challenged in self-inquiry. She deepened her exploration of her own life and what it means to be the first American-born child of Taiwanese parents.
"Learning to bridge cultures is challenging, because whether you want that role or not, you have it," she says. "I didn't have a precedent because I was the one who’s supposed to be finding and lighting the way. Perhaps that’s why I chose a career path of asking questions and telling stories. I was seeking answers and hoping to help others, too. I think we’re all, always, finding our way."
For many months, she has been listening intensely and speaking to friends of all races, privately and in small Zoom groups, about the topic of race this year.
"I watched historical film footage from 1968 with Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, the 1992 L.A. Riots and the protests of 2020. It feels like we have made no progress," she notes. "Yet, I know we have. We still have so much work to do. As an Asian American, I have been blamed for COVID-19 and have been targeted with racial slurs and hollering for me to go back to my country. Many have it way worse than that. I’m encouraged that some hard conversations are happening and a diversity of leadership is bubbling up more than ever before. That gives me hope."