By Jessica Smith for Shape.com
While following a regular exercise program is a great way to relieve stress, some workouts can actually cause a stress response in your body. Some research has linked exercise (endurance workouts in particular) with increased production of stress hormones and inflammation in the body.
We're not suggesting you skip your workout -- just make sure it's balanced and responsive to your body's needs. For example, if you find yourself under a lot of stress, you may want to restore your energy level with a flowing, gentle sweat session instead of that killer spin class. And while meditation is a proven stress reducer, it isn't for everyone. If you prefer to stay in motion, we recommend trying any or all of these relaxing (but dynamic) mind/body workouts.
NIA, which stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action, is a blend of martial arts, dance and healing arts. Done barefoot, this workout features a flowing blend of movement that combines deep breathing exercises with moves like kicks and turns to keep your heart rate elevated, your mind relaxed and your body moving. <br><br> <strong>More from Shape.com:</strong><br> <a href="http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/two-one-toning-exercises" target="_hplink">Two-In-One Toning Exercises</a><br> <a href="http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/relaxing-101-expert-tips-reduce-stress-and-anxiety" target="_hplink">10 Strategies To Eliminate Stress</a><br> <a href="http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/try-trend-7-workouts-inspired-pop-culture" target="_hplink">7 Pop Culture-Inspired Workouts</a>
2. Tai Chi
An ancient martial arts form originally developed in China, Tai Chi is a flowing, meditative series of movements designed to connect the mind and body and foster a sense of calm and serenity. But don't be fooled by its peaceful nature -- tai chi will keep you constantly in motion, engage your entire body and offer a great mental challenge to stay present and in the moment. <br><br> <em>Flickr photo by <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/doughay/5912214387/" target="_hplink">Doug Hay</a></em>
3. Qi Gong
Qi Gong, also an ancient Chinese art form, focuses on the repetition of one movement at a time (versus a series of movements like in Tai Chi). "Qi" refers to "life energy," and this invigorating workout is dedicated to cultivate the spirit and promote healing, health, and awareness through visualization, breathing techniques and repetition of specific "energy flowing" movements.
4. Trance Dance
This form of moving meditation comes from shamanic and eastern cultures and has been used for centuries for various rituals and spiritual passages. While it looks a little like something you might see at a rave party, its definitely a fun way to let loose, blow off steam and enjoy some mindless movement (and possibly even connect a little deeper into the spiritual realm).
5. Restorative Yoga
If you've been burning the candle at both ends for too long, we can't recommend restorative yoga enough. While many forms of yoga offer a relaxing element to their practice, some poses and postures may require a lot of effort to maintain or get into -- not exactly something you need to stress over if you're burned out. Instead of moving from pose to pose, you'll hold restful positions for a longer period of time, giving your body the opportunity to truly let go and release. <br><br> Restorative yoga offers a truly soothing experience, designed to completely relax your body (it's almost as calming as sleeping), but it still gives you a little more to do than simply sitting and breathing.
6. Ai Chi
Drawing from concepts used in Tai Chi, Shiatsu and Qi Gong, Ai Chi incorporates the use of water resistance and buoyancy to create a relaxing, flowing form of movement. Typically performed standing in shoulder deep water, Ai Chi uses deep breathing and large, deliberate movements of the entire body to help improve range of motion, mobility and balance.
7. Chi Running
If everything we've mentioned so far has you yawning, stick to your type-A workout and turn it into a more spiritual experience with Chi Running. Just like it sounds, this unique form of "spiritual cardio" combines movement principles of Tai Chi with running, making it easier and healthier for both your body and mind. <br><br> Chi Running utilizes relaxed, resistance-free, forward momentum (and is often done barefoot) to help engage more of your core muscles and reduce risk of injury. <br><br> <strong>More from Shape.com:</strong><br> <a href="http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/two-one-toning-exercises" target="_hplink">Two-In-One Toning Exercises</a><br> <a href="http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/relaxing-101-expert-tips-reduce-stress-and-anxiety" target="_hplink">10 Strategies To Eliminate Stress</a><br> <a href="http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/try-trend-7-workouts-inspired-pop-culture" target="_hplink">7 Pop Culture-Inspired Workouts</a>
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