Recently while I was working out at the gym, I suddenly overheard shouts of “I am worth it!” and “I am proud!” emanating from a nearby classroom. Curious, I peeked in to see a superfit, energetic woman leading students through a series of dance moves while reciting motivational mantras. It looked strange, but I was intrigued so I signed up to try it out myself with Patricia Moreno, the toned instructor and founder of the program.
The workout, called the IntenSati Method, combines aerobic exercise with positive affirmations to provide a unique mind-body experience in an hour-long session. Moreno, a fitness professional for more than 30 years, says she created the class to help people train their minds as well as their bodies in order to improve their spiritual, mental, and physical health.
After struggling with her weight and an eating disorder for years, Moreno discovered the key to truly getting healthy. “I realized there was a missing piece in my diet and exercise plan: my mindset,” Moreno says. “I needed to reset my mental self-talk in order to change.” She came up with the concept for IntenSati in 2002 while walking on a beach at a self-help retreat. “We were repeating motivational mantras while marching in the sand, and I thought, 'This is it! I need to combine exercise with affirmations.'" She created a vocabulary of empowering phrases such as “I challenge myself” or “I am done complaining” spoken while performing a move. Soon she started leading classes at Equinox locations in New York City, where she still teaches several days a week. The program caught on and is now taught at locations around the country.
Moreno begins each IntenSati class with a 10-minute talk to set the theme for the workout (themes such as "no complaining" and "accept abundance" change monthly). Then comes 45 minutes of classic aerobics, martial arts, and dance moves for a high-intensity, heart-pumping workout, all performed while repeating back the positive affirmations that the instructor shouts. When the class first started with some stretches, I found myself thinking, "Is this it?" It sure wasn’t. A few basic arm moves and simple kicks soon morphed into a rapid-fire series of choreographed movements, combining punches, dance moves, squats, clapping, and jumping.
I had trouble keeping up at first and admittedly felt a little silly punching the air while claiming “I am strong!” But when I focused on watching Moreno, whose enthusiasm and energy are absolutely contagious, I couldn’t help but catch on and I finally started to get the routine down. I felt a huge rush of endorphins—and a major calorie burn—as it all started to click into place. I’ll be honest: The workout involves lot of self-empowerment talk and high-fiving your classmates, so it may not be for everyone. However, I’m not exactly the “rah-rah” type, and even I could hardly wipe the wide grin off my face by the end of class.
“When you combine music, movement, and words, you’re not only expressing something, but you’re also becoming something. The key is putting emotion into each physical movement,” Moreno says. Since IntenSati’s popularity has grown, Moreno developed different variations (WarriorSati, DanceSati, CoreSati, and SoulYogaSati) to provide a well-rounded exercise program under the Sati umbrella.
As we finished the class, I looked around at the beaming faces around me. There’s no doubt that the combination of positive thoughts and physical movements had an effect on my classmates, and I too felt uplifted—and a lot less cynical—post-workout. “It’s powerful. People cry in class,” Moreno says. “We can feel so much when we stop beating ourselves up, start saying things we’ve never said, and open our minds to new possibilities.”