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Lotus Power : Pro Baseball Players in Area Turn to Yoga for Physical, Mental Benefits

March 01, 1997

Yogi Berra goes with baseball, but does yoga?

Mike Lieberthal, a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies from Westlake High, believes it does. Lieberthal is among a dozen or so professional players who gathered three times a week the past several months for a rigorous yoga session in West Hills.

Their instructor is Alan Jaeger, a former Cal State Northridge pitcher who has studied Eastern philosophy and is making a career of applying it to baseball.

"I've been working with Al for five years and my flexibility has improved 200%," Lieberthal said. "The breathing increases my stretching capabilities, and I am pushing my body to a different limit."

Lieberthal has recommended yoga training to other pros, and Jaeger had a full class that included Nick Bierbrodt, the Arizona Diamondbacks' first-round draft choice last June, and Keith Evans, an eighth-round pick of the Montreal Expos who attended Crespi High.

"Yoga for me is so important because I'm also in an off-season weight lifting program," Lieberthal said. "The yoga keeps me flexible. It counteracts the lifting."

Yoga is a regimen of stretching exercises that improves body control and mental well-being. The deep breathing required in yoga becomes beneficial when Lieberthal finds himself in a pressure situation during the season.

"You get to a relaxed state of mind quicker and easier with deep breathing," he said. "Breathing through your stomach makes it easier to gather your thoughts and get focused."

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