Sometimes Alaina Salks finds herself in an awkward situation when the subject of work pops up in a social conversation. She skirts a balance between being true to herself and respecting other people’s boundaries.
“I sometimes make people uncomfortable. I’ve gotten very good at changing the subject,” says Alaina, and laughs. She’s a certified Authentic Tantra practitioner and co-founder/director of The Institute of Authentic Tantra Education. “I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, but at the same time I think its ridiculous we can’t talk about our own sexuality. When someone asks me what I do I tell them.”
Her career began with a genuine interest in human sexuality, something she saw as an area where people could not get a lot of help. She found an article in Spirituality & Health magazine on sacred sexuality and something clicked.
“I was always a spiritual person and I have always been interested in sexuality as well,” says Alaina, who went looking for an education program in tantra practice. She found an extensive, three-month course via online video streaming platforms, which included a year of practice and a culminating retreat in Washington state.
“I have my certification as an Authentic Tantra practitioner, which is a specific sexual healing modality that is rooted in Tibetan Buddhist practices,” explains Alaina, inside her private Lancaster office.
Authentic Tantra is a trademarked holistic healing modality designed to “awaken, heal, and integrate body, mind, spirit, and sex.” The teachings date back over 2,600 years and are “woven” into a holistic set of sexual and nonsexual methods for healing and transformation.
“People define tantra as many different things. The common definition is ‘weaving.’ You can think of it as a spiritual practice that incorporates sexuality instead of secluding it,” explains Alaina.
The word tantra is Sanskrit and means to loom or weave; after 500 BC the word is also used as a bibliographic category, as in a collection of teachings.
“When an action or a thing, once complete, becomes beneficial in several matters to one person, or to many people, that is known as Tantra.” — 6th century Indian philosopher, Sabara
In her private practice, Alaina introduces individual students and couples to ancient tantric traditions, allowing them to be present, connected, and fulfilled in their sexual and interpersonal relationships. She has no typical type of clientele but sees more women than men.
“Where I am lacking clientele is in the LGBTQ+ community. Tantra has historically been cisgender, heterosexual in its nature,” says Alaina.
She’s been working with her colleagues on how to change some of the archaic nature of the practice. As co-founder/director of The Institute of Authentic Tantra Education, she trains tantra teachers using a two-year program based on the model she learned under—a 3-month program with almost a year of field practice—followed by an additional 11 months of training including two retreats.
“It’s a growing interest. There aren’t programs out there that have this scope,” says Alaina. “We realized that the methods we are teaching are highly transformational, specifically the ones rooted in Tibetan Buddhism.”
One of the reasons why the institute desires to be so comprehensive is the fact that tantra practitioners often deal with clients experiencing sexual trauma. The trauma can range from rape or sexual assault to “any crossed boundary that can manifest in the body,” says Alaina. “We found that a lot of people are coming to us because they’ve had sexual trauma. It’s really, really common in our culture. We provide a somatic approach to healing.”
The institute also created a code of ethics for its practitioners. The 19-part code, implemented in 2016, calls on practitioners to exercise professionalism in their practice. Misconceptions about tantra education and practice are prevalent in society.
“I get a lot of late-night emails,” says Alaina. “I also get a lot of people who call and are just terrified of what the process will be like. That’s a hurdle, because we are not used to talking about our own sexuality and what we need. People have to be ready to do the work, but it’s not as scary as it seems. One of the things I excel at is approaching the subject of sexuality in a calm and professional manner. Most of my clients relax very quickly. It becomes very easy for them to talk about their lives and their sexuality.”
For more information or to sign up for an authentic Tantra course, visit www.alainasalks.com.