Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Yoga for the Type A Personality

Growing up my mother practiced yoga twice a week (she still does to this day). While I was exposed to yoga at a young age, I never really got it. I'd watch my mom stretching on the floor or doing a headstand in our living room and think she was a bit out there. My dad thought so too, as he chose more conventional forms of exercise -- running and weight lifting.

When I was in university, I became a huge gym buff. There was a period during grad school where I exercised for two solid years without missing a single day -- 730 days in a row! And I followed in my dad's footsteps -- opting for a daily regimen of cardio and weights. One spring I decided to sign up for a Hatha Yoga intro series. The classes were okay, but I never felt like I was working out, so I'd squeeze in some cardio before or after to compensate.

I continued to do yoga on and off (mostly off) during the next six years. I'd choose Ashtanga classes, which I found more vigorous -- all those sun salutations would elevate my heart rate and sometimes I'd even sweat. But I never had a consistent practice because I always left feeling like I hadn't done much.

Then I found Bikram Yoga and everything changed. It was by accident really. I moved downtown and was looking for a yoga studio in my neighbourhood. The Bikram Yoga Centre was the closest. It took me a while to actually get there. A few times I called to find out how long the classes were (I didn't know they were all 90 minutes) and no one ever answered, so I'd use that as an excuse not to go. When I did finally make it to my first class, I had no clue of what I was getting into. Everyone had beautifully sculpted bodies and were wearing next to nothing. I felt really out of place.

I made it through that first class and even managed to do all the poses. At the end, I felt like I'd just run a marathon. I was physically and emotionally spent. It was exhilarating! Completely different from any other yoga class I’d ever done. I could barely walk the next day -- awkward pose had given my thighs the workout of a lifetime. I went back a couple days later and bought a 20 class pass, which I went through in less than a month. Right after that, I bought a year membership and haven't looked back. I was hooked from day one.

So why am I recounting this story? Well, the reason why other forms of yoga never appealed to me is because they didn't mesh well with my personality. You see, I'm Type A -- I am competitive, achievement-oriented, and always looking for my next challenge. I don't want to waste my time performing actions that aren't going to produce results. And with Bikram Yoga, the results were immediate. Within weeks my body started to look and feel different. And no matter how many times I practice, the yoga is always challenging. Plus it demands a high-level of athleticism. Perfect for my personality.

I don’t think I’m alone. Many of the teachers at my studio have an intensity about them that is characteristic of a Type A personality. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are you drawn to Bikram Yoga for similar reasons?

Wondering if you're a Type A? Take this short quiz to find out.


  1. I have read that Type A people are drawn to Bikram yoga and I definitely agree. We strive to perfection and the reason Bikram captures our attention is that perfection is always elusive. Unless you are very flexible or have practiced for a very long time, you cannot fully express the poses so there is something to work towards. I am also a rower, which is similar to Bikram in many ways in terms of the discipline, technique, and mental challenge. Great post!

  2. p.s. you're my hero for exercising 730 days in a row!

  3. I am definitely not a Type A personality but I find that when I practice Bikram yoga, the bit of Type A that I have in me comes out. I love the challenge everyday. It totally exhilarates me! I have also tried other types of yoga and never ever have I felt so in love and addicted.

  4. Ah! Thank you for posting this! I am definitely a Type A personality and I can't seem to even want to try other forms of Yoga! I've been going to two Bikram classes a week for the last year and recently have been getting nausiated and dizzy during Camel... My sister suggested I not go to the heated classes but try a different type. However, the Type A in me says "I WILL conquer this!" Plus, nothing else does what Bikram does for me!

  5. Bikram was the only yoga philosophy that was consistent every time, with a set dialogue and posture structure, hence removing the teacher's egos and ideas out of the picture (no offense to TT). I've been in yoga classes where there's chocolate, wine, hip hop, instructors massaging the student's booty in the middle of class .. o yea, ive seen all of that. being from India, that was not the rigor and austerity and sincerity in yoga that I have seen growing up. Bikram gives me all that, plus its physical intensity always forces me to go to that part of me that is beyond my body, mind, etc. Perhaps you can say my Spirit. BY also seems to bring out my mental weaknesses, which I can fix right there..

  6. This is really a good inspirational blog. After read this I'm really eager to learn yoga. Let me the yoga positions for beginners? and Trainers needed for basic yoga? Thanks for taking time to share great information. Now I understood the benefits of regularly doing Yoga. Keep blogging.

    Riley Martin from Yoga Sydney