I went to see a doctor earlier this week, and he diagnosed me as Type A. I am actually serious. Ok, maybe not a full diagnosis, but he said it was something he noticed. I sarcastically said to him, “what lawyers do you know that are Type A?” Then I tried to get around it and said, “but I work with kids.” His response was, “That’s a nice façade.” In other words, I could not get past him. I’m Type A.
Do you think lawyers have a reputation? (Of course I refrained from saying it was really a case of it taking one to know one. He is, after all, a neurosurgeon.)
He told me to stretch and relax. I saw another doctor the following day, and she wrote out three parts of a prescription for me: 1) Massage, 2) Yoga?, and 3) Stretch every 2 hours. What happened to the medical profession over night? She even told me to follow my gut.
But I think they were trying to tell me something. And it is partially about lawyers, but mostly it is about people in general who get worked up about a lot. We have to really try to calm down. We have to try to relax. We have to try to let go. Talk about an oxymoron.
What does it mean to be Type A? Well, Wikipedia, of course, has the answer. It was actually originally created as a theory to describe people likely to get coronary heart disease. I never knew that. But the general notion is that people who are Type A are high-strung workaholics. It is not surprising, then, that such people would become lawyers and doctors and other high intensity professionals.
But yes, that is why it is even more important for such people to incorporate yoga and meditation into our lives. But then comes the problem . . . workaholics always feel they have to be doing something. That sort of defeats the purpose of meditation. The point is to do nothing, even though that is sort of something. Sort of. It certainly does not meet the definition of something for Type A personality folks.
But then there is an underlying problem, should I say, with Type A folks taking up something like yoga, particularly in the United States where yoga is synonymous with putting your foot behind your head and sweating to death on a mat. As the doctor said to me, and what I think prompted the comment about my being Type A in the first place, he was worried I would take his advice too far and push myself too much. The same is true for any asana-focused yoga practice. It can become too much, and even harmful, if not done in a yogic sense, but instead is done in a more Type A sense.
Of course, at its core, yoga is about balance . . . on all levels. It helps us see our limits work within them. But until we gain those tools from the practice, our well-patterned neural pathways run us. And as I have learned these past several months, those come back when the yoga falls away.
So what do we do about it? We learn to watch ourselves. Yoga is an amazing tool, and an amazing way of being. But it can be misconstrued, particularly by certain people, and there is no question lawyers and other professionals more likely than not fall into that category of people. There is nothing wrong with being Type A. One of my dear friends reminded me the world needs people like us. But we also have to be careful. We have to be careful not to hurt ourselves by trying to help ourselves. Most importantly, we have to remember to stop and do nothing sometimes. We have to remember to relax and let go.
Sometimes it is even a literal prescription. And that is where the question mark comes from above. The second doctor says yoga is fine . . . when it is. But be careful. We can benefit from working a lot and taking our work seriously. We can benefit from having order in our lives. But as the Wikipedia article points out, these traits can lead to being hostile and irritated with others. It is how we get to the downward spiral of emails.
So whether it is our bodies or our interactions with others, we need to be careful. And this week I had two doctors prescribe relaxation to me. Go figure. I guess that is why I’m sharing it with the world. It’s a great prescription for anyone, particularly those of us who may take even our need to relax a little too seriously.
© Rebecca Stahl 2013, all rights reserved.