This question has been at the back of my mind for a while now, but Claudia's recent post ("You can't always get what you want") made me think about it a little more. So I thought I'll share some thoughts here.
So, is there such a relation? If there is, what is this relation? Do people become more type A as a result of practicing Ashtanga? Or are type As attracted to Ashtanga because something about the very highly structured nature of Ashtanga practice draws them to it like bees to honey? And if Ashtanga indeed attracts type As, what happens to these people after they start practicing? Do they become even more type A? Or does the practice somehow mellow and humble them, causing them to become less type A (maybe they become type B.5, as Claudia so cleverly suggested)?
These are intriguing questions. But before I say more, it is probably useful to try to get clear about what exactly we mean by type A and type B. This is where Wikipedia, that most hallowed of (un)scholarly sources, comes in handy (Gee, how did we get by in the pre-Wikipedia Dark Ages?). According to the all-knowing Wikipedia-oracle:
A Type A individual is one who is "ambitious, aggressive, business-like, controlling, highly competitive, impatient, preoccupied with his or her status, time-conscious, and tightly-wound. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence."
By contrast, person with type B personalities "are generally patient, relaxed, easy-going, and at times lacking an overriding sense of urgency."
If the practice enables people to become more patient, relaxed and easy-going, then maybe we can say that type A people become more type B (or type B.5) over time, as they develop their practice. I like to think this is true in my case. The practice, by its very physically demanding nature, forces me to accept and work with my body's limits. I realize that if I can't do, say, karandavasana today, no amount of being aggressive or controlling will get me anywhere. In fact, more often than not, being controlling and aggressive on the mat results in unnecessary pain and injury. In this way, the practice has a way of molding one's personality into one that is more accepting of limitations, and that is more willing to work with what is, rather than strive instinctively and un-reflectively for a perceived state of perfection all the time.
But maybe things aren't that simple. I have this inner perception of the practice doing certain things to me, making me less of an asshole and more of a... saint? Well, maybe not saint, but at least less of an asshole. But that is only how I see myself. What if type A or type B are not absolute states of one's being, but are relative to different aspects of one's life as a whole? What if it is possible for me to be type A (controlling, aggressive, ambitious) in one area of my life but type B (patient, relaxed, easy-going) in another aspect of my life? And what if one is type B on the mat (i.e. patient and relaxed with regard to achieving or "getting" postures) but type A in all other areas of life? What if, due to consistent practice, I have learnt that being impatient and trying to control things on the mat is not productive, but I continue to be type A in my off-mat life, because that's how I have always done things, and I have always attained results in the real world by being this way?
You may say this is ultimately impossible, that ideally, the practice should permeate all aspects of one's life and make one a better person. I like to believe this is true too. But we all have heard of artists who are very adept and masterful at their art, but who are assholes in their personal lives. So if we think of yoga as being in a sense an art form, what would prevent some yogis from being the same way?
As usual, I'm just thinking aloud, with no real answers to any of these issues. If you have any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.