UK soap star Roxy Shahidi talked to WatchFit’s Guy Holland and explained that although acting is her job and has brought her fame and recognition, her first love is really yoga…

Rokhsenah Ghawam-Shahidi is known to millions as glamorous Leyla Harding in TV’s Emmerdale. She played the prominent prime time TV part for several years whilst also managing to take a break to concentrate on stage work. Roxy is a hard working versatile actress for whom health and fitness are key to maintaining her professional standards.

For years Roxy has taken her physical health very seriously and believes it is essential to making her the best actress she can be. And the central component of her fitness programme is yoga, which she has practised seriously and constantly across several disciplines including Ashtanga and Bikram, for 15 years.


“Acting involves the full range of tensions, intensities and energies, not to mention long days on set or in rehearsal and many hours of hanging around. None of which is particularly conducive to a balance of body and mind and blissful equilibrium!” explained Roxy.

“But yoga is where I find this balance. It’s calming when necessary, energising when required and terrific for enhancing and maintaining my fitness and conditioning. It has made a huge difference to me over the years in terms of the shape I’m in, the performances I’m able to deliver and as an actress and my energy levels that allow me to effectively put in long hours and maintain concentration. It’s not just a fabulous way to achieve and maintain a great body, it helps me to be calmer, more balanced and focused”.

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But how did Roxy discover yoga and set herself on an adulthood of practising and advocating its many benefits? “That would have all been down to my gran! I was 17 years old, my gran was really keen on working out to two particular videos: Mr Motivator and Barbara Curry’s yoga workout. Mr. Motivator’s hyper style and bright garish spandex didn’t appeal to me at all, but I became absolutely hooked on Barbara Curry and her yoga teachings. I used to pinch the  video as often as possible and it sent me on the most wonderful journey of mental and physical fulfilment.”

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And Roxy admits she made this discovery at just the right time in her life. “I was quite sporty and active at school and was a huge fan of athletics. The sprints were my thing and my hero of the time was Linford Christie. But at the age of 13 I started to make new discoveries in my life, including, smoking behind the bike shed, biscuits and cake and my sports and physical activity fell by the wayside. It’s a common enough story and many people will relate to it, but I was lucky that four years later I was ‘rescued’ by Barbara Curry and my gran and I was soon looking after myself again and appreciated the value and necessity of fit and health disciplines.

So how appropriate then that the 17- year-old who pinched her grandmother’s video has released two of her own DVDs through leading production company IMC Vision and hopes they might inspire others to discover, pursue and benefit from yoga. “If they impact on even one person in the same way that Barbara Curry did to me then I will be absolutely thrilled!”

In Part 2 of this feature we look at Roxy’s DVDs more closely.

* Studio photography by Andy Lesauvage –

DVD cover by IMC Vision – 


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