Chris’s Story: How Yoga Saved a Veteran’s Life

Nearly 8% of Americans are living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One of those people is Michigan resident Chris Martindale. He’s the founder and instructor at the Spartan Warrior Project, an organization that strives to, “empower and build resilience for the individual,” through yoga in the greater Lansing area.

Martindale is a former Navy hospital corpsman who served with the Marines and completed two military tours, including Afghanistan. After being honorably discharged in 2010, he returned to the U. S., where he began experiencing severe PTSD symptoms. This led to an eventual suicide attempt, which would change his life forever.

The veteran had no idea what the future held or that his saving grace would be yoga. For Martindale, yoga was something he shrugged off. Friends would invite him to classes and he’d immediately turn them down. That was until he read an article about how it brought peace to a fellow Marine struggling with PTSD.

The inspirational tale drove Martindale to buy a yoga mat. “When I began practicing, I had an intense emotional reaction,” he said. Martindale could feel the healing stir inside of him. With every deep breath, the anxiety and depression started to subside. He fell in love with the practice that allowed him to reconnect with his body and emotions.

In 2016, Martindale started classes to become a certified yoga instructor. He began teaching at various places around Michigan including Team Red, White and Blue, Wounded Warrior and Michigan State University ROTC. In Sept. 2017, the passion and drive to help others led him to establish a non-profit organization, the Spartan Warrior Project. Initially, classes catered to veterans and military personnel, but gradually became more inclusive. “Along with veterans, I realized that everyone wants to belong to a larger community and that anybody can benefit from yoga,” Martindale said.

The Spartan Warrior Project hosts events all over the greater Lansing Area, including Michigan State University and the state capitol. Every Tuesday night, people are free to attend classes at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. The goal is to bring the community together and give individuals the tools they need to build resilience.

According to Martindale, here’s how to get the most from your yoga journey:

  • Remember: Yoga helps you learn about yourself through breathing and meditation.
  • Get rid of expectations and presumptions. Try it once and be flexible within your own mind.
  • You don’t need to shut off your mind during class. Yoga is all about awareness, including your thoughts.
  • Don’t live by the “I’m OK” mentality. Embracing your feelings will help you heal any trauma.
  • Never doubt yourself. We’re capable of being resilient if we give ourselves the opportunity.
  • “My body, my breath, my practice.” Don’t worry about what others think. Yoga is all about being in touch with yourself.

For information on Spartan Warrior Project’s upcoming events, visit their Facebook page.

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Photo credit: Spartan Warrior Project/Facebook

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