EMMERDALE actress Leah Bracknell is taking a break from the show to qualify as a yoga teacher, it was announced today.

Leah, who plays lesbian vet Zoe Tate, will leave the TV soap this autumn in a dramatic story.

She plans to take about nine months off, then return to the ITV show.

The 40-year-old mother-of-two is a keen yoga fan. Last year she released her own exercise video.

She said: "I will greatly miss everyone at Emmerdale, but I am looking forward to spending some time with my family and having the opportunity to pursue other projects.

"I will also be finishing my teaching diploma in yoga, which is something I am passionate about," she said.

"After 15 years of playing Zoe it will be strange to spend time apart from her. But I will be interested to see what the story office has planned and look forward to re-discovering her when I return."

Zoe has been at the centre of some of the soap's biggest stories over the years.

She had a lesbian fling with Charity Dingle - now Tate - in 2001 and the following year had a schizophrenic breakdown.

She fell pregnant and was shocked to discover Scott Windsor was the father.

Details of her exit story are being kept under wraps, but a show insider said: "Her departure will be dramatic."

Emmerdale series producer Kath Beedles said: "Leah is an exceptional actress and has made a huge contribution to Emmerdale's success. We wish her all the best for her well-earned break and look forward to welcoming her back."