With her intenSati method, Patricia Moreno, a fitness, wellness and inspiration leader, created a totally new space by combining challenging workouts, positive affirmations and self-acceptance to change the minds and bodies of people all over the globe. LivingHealthy asked Patricia exactly how she started intenSati, how it works and how it’s improved so many lives.
LivingHealthy: I remember taking your aerobics classes 25 years ago at the Jeff Martin studio in New York. Is that how you started out?
Patricia Moreno: I started teaching in 1982. But it all started way before that. I grew up self-conscious about my weight. By the time I was in third grade, I was on a diet. When I was 12, I weighed 212 pounds. I was always dieting, but I was getting fatter and fatter. My mom was the same way. She had 11 kids and was an extremist, bingeing then fasting for 40 days. My young adult life revolved around losing weight. I believed I would only be lovable when I lost weight. Finally, my sister took me to a Jazzercise class. I had fantasized about being a dancer, but I was fat. When I went to this class, I exploded into joy. I was like “This is it! This is my calling!”
LH: How did you start teaching?
Moreno: I created my own aerobics workouts—Cardio Moves and Fired-Up were two of my first classes. I was happy, my classes were packed, I was loving it. But I became extreme again, teaching five hours a day. I was bingeing and purging. I was portraying a fit person, doing what my industry said to do—diet and exercise—but I was failing. I became more successful on the outside, traveling all over the world—I had a TV show, I had fan mail—but I was gaining weight and now it was on national TV. I was depressed, secretive and scared.
LH: That sounds really tough. How did you break that cycle?
Moreno: I realized if I’m failing at this, there must be millions of people failing. So I set out to find the answer for myself and for my students. There had to be something we weren’t teaching—how do we create lasting positive change in our lives? I consumed books on metaphysics and personal empowerment. I went to coaching workshops. I learned about our “self-concept,” that the words we say after “I am” determine the course of your life. Then I got it. Of course! All my life I’ve said “I’m fat.” That was my mantra, my self-concept, my affirmation. It was a piece of the puzzle, but not the answer.
LH: What was the answer? Was there something specific that led you to it?
Moreno: I was at a retreat with Tony Robbins, learning to access different states of mind and reframe our ideas of ourselves. We were marching on the beach, chanting the affirmation “All I need is within me now.” It’s like I was struck by lightning. I realized I had to create a workout where we do affirmations and emotionalize them in order to change our self-concepts of ourselves. Through emotion it becomes an experience, and through experience we can create a new self-concept.
LH: Is that how intenSati was born?
Moreno: Yes, I created intenSati to help people become more aware of how language and emotion affect who we become. To teach that we can step back and consciously choose the thoughts, beliefs and emotions we feed ourselves. We can choose to be loving, confident and courageous, practice those states and ultimately transform ourselves into the person we want to be.
LH: What does intenSati mean?
Moreno: I wanted to create a word that would reflect what we’re doing, make people stop and ask what it means, and describe something people have never done before. It’s not cardio, meditation or soulful aerobics. Sati is a Sanskrit word that means “mindfulness.” Inten is a Western word that means “intention.” It’s in the mindfulness tradition, but brought into Western culture.
LH: So this is exercise. What’s an intenSati class like?
Moreno: It’s a challenging workout. We start by setting an intention and doing breathwork to become present and energized. Then it’s 35 minutes of a high-intensity aerobic segment that combines movements from dance, martial arts and yoga with vocalized affirmations so you can use your thoughts, words and actions to birth a new feeling and rewire your brain and body to a new empowered state. I created a vocabulary. I say, “Do Courage, Do Strength, Do Confidence.” Consciously combining empowering thoughts, words and actions brings out the best in us. Following the cardio portion is a core strengthening and lower body section of the workout, and then a visualization practice to harness the positive feelings that we have just awakened. We’re literally developing the warrior within, becoming physically stronger. We’re consciously training our nervous system to handle stress without setting us off into a tizzy. But it is accessible. People of all ages and all fitness levels thrive with this practice.
LH: You make it sound so easy.
Moreno: It’s a practice. You need to become a master of your state, of your emotions, of your awareness, of where you put your attention. It’s simple, but certainly not easy.
LH: Where are you teaching now?
Moreno: My home base is New York City. I teach at various Equinox locations and I also offer Saturday sessions on a drop-in basis. Then I travel around the world and teach. There are 500 trained intenSati leaders worldwide and we’re planning to train up to 300 more by the end of 2016. Our goal is to have thousands of intenSati leaders worldwide spreading the message that loving your body means more than focusing on your size or weight. It’s what you think about yourself, how you treat yourself and what you believe about yourself that determine your experience. We need to exercise our power to change our minds, open our hearts and become a better person than we dreamed of, and not simply focus on the size of our thighs, but the size of our hearts. Instead of the gym as punishment, I want the conversation to shift to “I’m here to heal myself, unleash myself, reward myself.”
LH: Why do we still view the gym as punishment, since we know fitness is so good for us? Haven’t we evolved past that?
Moreno: We are used to motivating ourselves with fear; it’s fight or flight. We have been so used to negatively motivating ourselves and waiting to be perfect before we love and accept ourselves. What I am teaching is that you can’t hate yourself happy or complain yourself thin. If you want to love yourself and your life, you need to practice loving yourself exactly as you are. When we replace fear-based actions with loving actions, miracles happen.
LH: Is it even possible to change that fight-or-flight response if it’s biological?
Moreno: You can learn to change your state and turn off the fight-or-flight response. intenSati is a practice of becoming aware of the mind-body connection and using mindfulness techniques, such as breathwork, to deactivate the stress response to create an inner environment of health and well-being. When you learn to become the master of your mouth, you become the master of your state and the master of your fate.
LH: The “master of your mouth,” meaning what you say. I like that.
Moreno: It’s really about understanding repercussions so you can make a different choice. Understanding that your life is created by the choices you make. So now we can be more positive and more grateful. Why? Because it feels good. And you know what? I can’t lose those 10 pounds today, but today I can feel good for no reason at all. I can train myself to be grateful for what I do have. And that leads to making better choices today, which means I can make progress, and progress is the key to success.
LH: Sign us up. Where can we take a class or learn more about your program?
Moreno: intenSati leadership programs are being taught all over the world. Next year we will be expanding throughout the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. Anyone can take the intenSati leadership training. Whether you want to lead an intenSati class in your area or you want to learn to be a leader for yourself, your family, your community or in your workplace, intenSati leadership training focuses on training you to become the change you want to see, for yourself, for your loved ones and for the world.
Note: The next intenSati Leadership training will take place in Los Angeles on December 4–6, 2015. To learn more about intenSati and the program, or to get a free downloadable workout, go to satilife.com.