When Tara Guber created a yoga program five years ago for a public elementary school in Aspen, Colo., she envisioned students meditating in the lotus position and chanting “om” to relax before standardized tests.
She never fathomed her proposal would provoke a crusade by Christian fundamentalists and parents who told the school board that yoga’s Hindu roots conflicted with Jesus’s teachings – and possibly violated the separation of church and state. Her critics painted Guber as a New-Age nut out to brainwash young minds.But the feisty teacher-turned-philanthropist never gave up on yoga, a sequence of breathing exercises, stretching and meditation first described in Hindu literature 4,000 years ago. To make it more palatable, she eliminated the chanting and translated Sanskrit words into kid-friendly English – yogic panting became “bunny breathing,” and “meditation” became “time in.”

“I stripped every piece of anything that anyone could vaguely construe as spiritual or religious out of the program,” says Guber, a Brooklyn native who embraced yoga after moving to California in the 1970s. Guber, who is married to former Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Peter Guber, changed her name from Lynda to Tara in 1991, when a yogi anointed her with the name of a wise Hindu deity.

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