Grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change,
The courage to change the one I can,
And the wisdom to know it’s me.
Y.S.2.1 Tapah Svadhyayesvara Ishvara Pranidhanani Kriya Yogah
Stephen Cope translates it like this: Yogic action has three components – discipline, self study, and the orientation toward the ideal of pure awareness. There are numerous translations with slightly different nuances and interpretations of the sanskrit, but the essence is essentially the same.
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to your higher power)
The courage to change the things I can (This is the absolute essence of Tapas)
And the wisdom to know the difference (Svadhyaya – self study leading to deep wisdom.)
Desikachar described the heat of tapas as a fire which removes impurities. Asana practice accomplishes this by working our physical body and breath against the grain of our embedded habits (samskaras). The assumption behind this idea is that we are working with something that actually is changeable – like how we breathe or hold tension in certain muscles – and this is how our bodies adapt to the practice. By contrast, we sometimes discover that some poses are made difficult (if not impossible) by some aspect of our body that is not going to change – like the proportional relationship of our arm-to-torso length, or the orientation of our hip joints – and this is when we must adapt the practice to our bodies.
Through practice and self-reflection (svadhyaya) we can discover some things about ourselves that are not subject to change – that’s when acceptance of that reality needs to become our focus. This is isvara pranidhana, a surrender to that which is not changeable or within our control. Or, as Desikachar put it: “…in the final analysis, we are not the masters of everything we do.” (from Heart of Yoga). Everything about our life in this body is subject to some kind of change, so we must always maintain a self-reflective attitude that allows us to constantly re-evaluate what we are working to change, and what we need to stop trying to change. Surrender is itself an act of will.