HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Michael Streeter is a retired U.S. Army Sergeant who was with the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He began his service in the 90's working in special operations as a Carl Gustav gunner…and frequently parachuted out of planes.
"I hit the ground really hard and was knocked out. Woke up about 20 minutes later, not knowing where I was or who I was."
Many times, the landings were rough. During his service he had three major accidents. Streeter fractured his vertebrae, sprained his ankle, and got multiple concussions. "My nickname became 'Animal' because I just took on more and more. The more I got hurt, the more I took on. I was a team leader. I was a gun leader. I just wanted to do the job the best i could because I love being in Ranger Battalion 75."
At the time he didn't realize what his body had endured; months after these injuries his leg went numb. "The injuries just started piling up. And then eventually I had to leave my platoon, and they put me in the S2, which was the intelligence community at the Ranger Battalion. And I did security clearances, did planning for missions and things like that."
Eventually he had to end his active service and was medically discharged. "I loved being in the military and being in the Rangers. It was just something I always wanted to do and I miss it a lot these days because I don't really think I fit in anywhere. I applied for jobs all over the place. No one ever hired me."
At this point, he was taking 22 medications for not only his physical health but his mental health. "I got addicted to Oxycontin. I started drinking heavily."
He did this to self-medicate.
And in 2007, he stopped drinking...but his pain lingered. "I hit my bottom in 2012. I wanted to kill myself. I was done. I was over it…it was failure after failure after failure." And then he received a call that saved his life.
"I got a phone call from the Charleston VA that said, 'We're starting a holistic program. We'd like you to be a part of it."
Because his body underwent several injuries and surgeries, he was hard to treat. But a practical doctor who turned to eastern medicine took a new approach. "Dr. Friedman started doing acupuncture on me once a week…and then he said, 'I would like you to start doing ashtanga yoga. I'd like you to do meditation. I would like you to start journaling'."
Streeter says this changed him. He not only lost weight and reduced his chronic pain. He let go of intrusive thoughts…and began practicing yoga, and then teaching his own class.
"When we come back from deployment or if we're out, we do things unconsciously. And that's why I love teaching yoga, because it teaches you mindfulness and not the emotional knee jerk reaction that I used to have. The knee jerk reaction would get me into trouble. It would hurt other people. It would hurt me. My family. And it's just changed my life in so many ways."
Streeter takes his leadership learned from the army and pours it onto the yoga mat. He calls his class 'Balanced Ranger Yoga'...and is not your typical practice. It's an athletic flow meant to strengthen you physically and mentally. He says, "I want to help anyone who is dealing with what I dealt with mentally and to have the tools to do better. Granted, we're human and we all make mistakes and we're not perfect and we're not the definitions of our past."
His class is supportive, kind, and celebrates their differences....and as he helps those within the classroom…his mantra flows beyond that. "My three words for my class and for just life in general are breath, strength and focus. We use the breath to create the strength to find the focus. Once you get your focus back, then you can mindfully think about things going on."
Honoring Veterans: Michael Streeter, Balanced Ranger Yoga
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