Hundreds of thousands of men and women who serve our nation, along with recent military veterans have seen combat. Many have been exposed to horrible, life-threatening experiences, resulting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Government data shows that PTSD afflicts about 30% of Vietnam veterans,12% of Gulf War veterans, and 20% of Iraqi War veterans.
PTSD can be treated in a variety of ways. Army veteran, Michael Streeter, who lives in Huntsville, was diagnosed with PTSD after serving eventually found his inner peace through yoga.
Michael was living his dream while serving as an army soldier in the 90’s with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment. He deployed all over the world. During his time serving, he got hurt.
“I broke my back on a jump in the middle east,” said Michael. “I fell 100 feet. Then year and a half later, I had a helicopter hard landing crash and hurt a lot of my skeletal system from that too.”
Michael says he loved being a ranger and pushed through for a while, despite his injuries. When he came home in 1999, he had a long road of recovery ahead of him as a result of the accidents. And that’s not all he was dealing with.
“I was dealing with PTSD that was undiagnosed,” he said. “It was what I saw in deployments and how people treated other people. I saw people laying dead in the streets in other countries and just how other people lived. When I got out, I felt I wasn’t good enough anymore and had been let go of what I loved to do so much — just being a ranger.”
He was diagnosed with PTSD and had a general discharge. A doctor at the Charleston VA Medical Center advised him to try yoga and start eating better. Through that, he lost 86 pounds in three years, and was able to find peace in his struggle with PTSD. Yoga, he says, saved his life. Now he teaches it.
“Before I had yoga and meditation and everything, it felt like I was in the back of a bus, and someone was driving and making the decisions for me,” Michael explained. “I’d start yelling and screaming and getting mad at someone or something. It was a lot of turmoil inside. I had given up at one point in 2013. I felt like I wasn’t man enough, wasn’t good enough and no one wanted me. I had applied for all these jobs, and everyone was turning me away. So I felt like I wasn’t contributing anymore. I wasn’t the asset I used to be.”
Michael says yoga isn’t about the poses, but about the mind.
“It’s about clearing the mind and being at peace during a challenging moment. That’s what I teach in my class. When poses reach their challenging moments, you just breathe, and find peace in the pose in the breath,” he said.
Finding inner peace was a process for Michael. It didn’t happen overnight. Though no longer a ranger, he’s found a new purpose in helping others find peace through yoga.
“The thing is for veterans, we have to face our demons. We can’t sugar coat it. I had to face mine. Find help. Find something that works for you, be it cross fit, yoga, workout, something. Don’t sit at home in your head,” Michael said.
Michael now teaches about four yoga classes each week. He teaches a free Ashtanga yoga class at Straight to Ale at Campus 805 in Huntsville on Thursday mornings at 9:30 AM. It lasts about an hour and a half.
Michael teaches classes at the Downtown Express YMCA on Monday’s and Wednesday’s at 11AM. On Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s at 9am at Hot Yoga of Huntsville. The classes he teaches at the Y and Hot Yoga are paid classes.