Celebrity Health - Roxy Shahidi

A photo of Roxy Shahidi

"My passion for yoga"

Actress Roxy Shahidi is best known for playing Leyla Harding in the ITV soap Emmerdale, but she is also a qualified yoga teacher. The 31-year-old appeared regularly in Emmerdale from 2009 to 2012 before taking a two-year break. She has now returned to the soap but combines her acting career with teaching regular yoga classes in Nottingham.

Q: What prompted your interest in yoga?

Roxy: "When I was a teenager I borrowed a Barbara Currie yoga DVD from my grandma. Barbara wore luminous lycra outfits and the DVD had cheesy 90s backgrounds, but it really inspired me. She was my first yoga teacher. I’d do the poses as a warm-up before my theatre shows but really it was during my time at Emmerdale and when I had my break from the show that I took it up with a more dedicated, daily passion. For the last four years or so I’ve practised it every day."

Q: What made you want to train as a yoga teacher?

Roxy: "I think whenever you come into contact with something that you feel passionate about, and which affects you in a positive way, then you naturally want to go deeper and learn more about it. Initially I just wanted to learn the Sanskrit names of the poses and the proper adjustments and alignments. But the more I did it, and the more I practised, the more interested I became. I still feel as hungry to learn now as I did before I started my training. Yoga is such a vast subject and has such a rich and semi-secret history that you can just keep going with it. There are so many variations too, from Iyengar and Ashtanga to Bikram. I’m just as passionate about it now as ever."

Q: Do you follow any other yogic practices like meditation?

Roxy: "Yes, I do meditate, but not as much as I should do. I’m naturally a very energetic, physical person so a form of movement meditation suits me better because you are focusing on the physical sensations in the body. I often say that my body is in pretty good shape but my mind could do with a good meditation workout."

Q: Do you enjoy other forms of exercise besides yoga?

Roxy: "No! I just do yoga. My passion for it is so great that I just keep wanting to find out more. I never get bored of it. I think it becomes harder not to do it when you get into a regular routine. The more you know about yoga the more you can use it in your life and benefit from it. For example, if I’m feeling like I’ve got loads of energy and need to calm down, 30 minutes to an hour of Ashtanga yoga really helps to calm me and use up some of that excess energy."

Q: Can you give us an idea of your daily routine?

Roxy: "Well, I get up around 6.40am and I do my yoga for about 40 minutes. I’ll then have a breakfast smoothie made from bananas, blueberries, spinach and green powder – it’s a quick and easy way to get a load of nutrients. During the day I always make sure I have loads of snacks on me because I’m a vegan and I’m not always able to get hold of healthy, vegan foods when I’m out and working. I’ll carry around things like fruit, chopped up vegetables and houmous or homemade protein cookies. In the evening I might have a chick pea curry with a raw salad. People at work call me the snack queen because I’m always eating!"

Q: How long have you been vegan? And what prompted that decision?

Roxy: "I’ve been vegan for about 10 years now and I'm an ambassador for the Vegan Society. I became vegetarian when I was eight and it was the first time that I realised the meat that I was eating used to be alive and fluffy. I thought it was so gross that I decided there and then I was going to become veggie. After about two weeks of refusing meat my mum eventually said ‘ok, I’ll start making veggie food for you’. That was until I was about 21. Then I suffered with quite bad acne that I couldn’t get rid of and my mum suggested cutting out dairy as she’d read that it could be related to hormonal imbalances. I started reading into the issues about the treatment of dairy cows and other factory farmed animals and that made me decide to become vegan. I ended up living on houmous for the first six months but I was 21 then and now I’m much more informed about how to make great-tasting, healthy vegan meals. I spend a lot of money on food now but I want to make sure I have an exciting diet."

Q: Do you have any tips for readers who might be interested in going vegan but don’t know where to start?

Roxy: "I think the things that people find hardest to live without are milk and cheese. So I would suggest trying different milks. I used to have soya but now I have hazelnut milk in my coffee and coconut milk in my porridge – which tastes amazing. There are plenty of cheese alternatives to explore too. I’d suggest going to the Vegan Society website (vegansociety.com) where you can find quick and easy recipes as well as plenty of advice. Another good tip is to make sure that you have plenty of food in your handbag. Make sure you’ve got some chopped up fruit or raw carrots and houmous on you to keep your blood sugar levels up. A little bit of planning goes a long way."

Q: Do you ever buy organic food?

Roxy: "Well at the moment we have a veg box delivered every week full of organic fruit and vegetables, which is great. I also pop into my local health food store to stock up on things like rye flour or spelt flour. I do a lot of shopping on vegan websites as well to get things like dairy alternatives."

Q: Do you enjoy cooking for yourself?

Roxy: "I don’t really enjoy cooking but I really enjoy the food afterwards! I love feeding people as well. In order to be fairly healthy I think you do need to cook. If I’m going to make a meal for myself and my partner I’ll take a bit more time over it, but if it’s just me I’ll throw together a salad with a bit of rye toast and some leftover vegan curry. Ideally I’d like to cook once a week and have a magic fairy to do it for me the rest of the week!"

Q: Do you take any supplements?

Roxy: "Yes I do take quite a few. My favourite is Nature’s Living Superfood, which contains lots of great things like whole leaf barley grass and wheat grass, nettle leaf and alfalfa leaf juice. I’ll whack that in a smoothie or a juice to give me a bit of a boost. I also take Higher Nature’s Vitamin C."

Q: Do you have anything exciting planned for the near future?

Roxy: "I’ll have another DVD of yoga for beginners coming out in the spring or summer. Also, I’m teaming up with the lady I trained with and we are going to start running yoga weekends in the Peak District this summer. I’m also in the process of setting up my website and the aim is to share free yoga videos as I really want to share some of the things I have learnt and some of the teachings that I think are wonderful."


Roxy Shahidi's new Yoga for Weight Loss DVD retails at £12.99



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