Elvis’ music is an expression of wisdom as great as any ancient wisdom tradition.

What Elvis Presley Means for Yoga?

Mark Whitwell | Yoga Teacher at Heart of Yoga

Mark Whitwell
6 min readDec 17, 2022
There have always been reality realizers among us who shared their realization so that their lovers could realize reality too. We need to remember them in the ‘every day,’ the ‘mundane,’ as we go about our ‘usual life.’ Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Thank you Elvis Presley for being great life sign, a messenger through which the great power of the cosmos exploded into popular consciousness. You started it all. Without you there would have been no Beatles, no John Lennon or Janis Joplin, no Jimi Hendrix, Tom Petty, or Rolling Stones. I first heard your music as a teenager in the 1960s. It came through the radio waves in the suburbs of New Zealand — the very pulse of life itself. I’m sorry that society failed you, that there was not the wisdom there to nurture who and what you were for humanity — a treasure, a gem, a beacon of light.

Baz Luhrman’s latest film Elvis does a dramatic and effective job of showing Elvis fall in love with Black Spirit. And how he brought that forth to an unsuspecting white audience. Elvis had grown up among its indigenous spirit, its sensuality and sexuality, its gospel devotion. In his music he channeled the core or the root substance of what life actually is.

“This is not rock n roll,” he said. “This is God’s music. This is holy sacred music.”

In Elvis’ songs, God and Sex are one. White people felt him and “it” as “forbidden fruit.” He transmitted that elixir of life, the secret outrageous power, the nurturing power of the cosmos that we know as Mother: the basis of life and all form. His first big song was “That’s All Right Mama” — an honouring of the feminine.

*What is Yoga? A free summary video and guided practice with mantra.

Elvis Presley in 1965 c. MGM | Our own popular culture is an expression of Truth as much as any ancient wisdom culture. Elvis was a life sign, a messenger of the Power of the Cosmos | Mark Whitwell

Elvis’ music, like that of other American greats such as Little Richard, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan, is an expression of wisdom as great as any ancient wisdom tradition. The Upanishads which held Yoga and the sacred texts of India and Tibet were only pointing to the living Truth of existence that is happening always in all geographies, times, and places.

In the 1960s, the door opened for maybe fifteen years and truth went around the world on the radio waves as a flood of inspiration. People were weeping to hear these songs. The artists were weeping too. They knew the beauty of it.

But neither artist nor audience could not stay on the beauty. They would reach a peak of creativity and then fall off the peak and be miserable. And then they would use drugs and alcohol to restore the apparently lost state of Truth. When the inevitable failure of his world, of relationships and sex happened, Elvis began to struggle and became addicted and unhappy.

White audiences too in the 1950s and 60s felt a little blip of energy and sex when they saw Elvis on TV, but ultimately they remained trapped with the dead thought structures of society. It is not enough to merely express it through art and poetry. This great power must be understood as the root of existence and participated in.

The inhale is from above as receptivity, the exhale is from below as strength. Where they meet is the hridaya heart, the union and source of all opposites | Mark Whitwell
The inhale is from above as receptivity, the exhale is from below as strength. Where they meet is the hridaya heart, the union and source of all opposites | Mark Whitwell

My teacher Krishnamacharya would say, “If you don’t have the means to respond to what has to inspired you — to actualise it in your own life — then inspiration can make matters worse.” There is gap between the inspiration and the usual social mind droning on.

So Yoga is the practical means to stay in the participation in the beauty of the power of the cosmos that is our condition, and the intelligence and perfect harmony of the cosmos. Which is the power that is expressed artistically by the great artists and by anybody that can play three chords and the truth. It is easy and anybody can do it.

Elvis looked for Yoga in his life, desperately. He wanted to know how to participate in God. “All I want is to know the truth,” he said. “To know and experience God. I’m a searcher, that’s what I’m all about.” He loved Yogananda’s book The Autobiography of a Yogi and Joseph Benner’s mystic Christian text The Impersonal Life — a text which spoke of how God in present in every person. He would give away copies of Benner’s book to all the staff on his film sets. “I want to teach it to all my fans,” he said. “To the whole world.”

Sadly, the information how a person can do their own actual practice of intimacy with Truth/God was just not available. Instead, Elvis was seduced by the usual story of meditation, going within, seeking for a future God, and the suppression of sex. He built a meditation garden at Graceland and started trying to suppress his sexual desires, and felt guilty for them. “He felt that if he could conquer his material desires,” his biographer Gary Tillery writes, “he could move on to a higher stage of development.” He was seduced by enlightenment.

*Click here to read an excerpt from God and Sex: Now We Get Both

Countless realizers throughout human history have come to us with the message that the Creation and the Creator are One; that Source and Seen are One. God is here happening as every body and every thing. There are no steps to be taken | Mark Whitwell | Heart of Yoga

Elvis’ hunger for God and his earnestness in studying sacred text is beautiful. It is to be honoured. He was the most famous person on the planet, he was incredibly wealthy and successful. But he knew that there was more to life. I wish he could’ve known that he already had the power, depth, beauty, and unity that he was looking for. The truth that texts like Autobiography of a Yogi and Benner’s theology that God is present in all things — animate and inanimate — does not have to be found; rather, it is prior, always already the case. The secrets of the universe in are you, as you.

Your body is in a profound peace. Your body is in the Natural State right now. My teacher UG was constantly saying. You trying to meditate is disturbing the body and causing conflict. You are tormenting yourself with meditation trying to realise something that the knowledge authorities have told you to do in their charming power structure. There is no finger to lift to realise God, for God is not absent. It is ridiculous to ask for something that you already have.

Your inhalation sacrificed to the exhalation and vice versa deals with the demons and reveals the hridaya heart, the source of all nurturing, the source of all Life on Earth. This is the place in your body where all opposites arise from and return to: where the inhalation perfectly merges with the exhalation, where strength is utterly receptive, where above meets below, where left meets right, where male meets female, is the hridaya heart. This is the first cell of Life that appeared when you appeared, the place from where all new life comes through in a perfect nurturing harmony of the cosmos. It is Self.

We have the information now and it can spread around the world just like rock n roll did. Every person, whether you are listening to the sacred music of culture or creating it, you can enjoy the depthless depth of your own heart; and participate in your inherent, already given connection to Truth.

A simple yet profound daily practice filmed by Dean Raphael outside the Lakshmi Temple in Mysore, India, where Krishnamacharya first began his teaching work | Mark Whitwell Heart of Yoga

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Mark Whitwell

Mark Whitwell has worked as a Yoga teacher around the world for the last 45 years and is the author of 4 books on Yoga. He lives in Fiji with his wife Rosalind.