Patricia Moreno, Spiritual Fitness Leader, Dies at 57
Patricia Moreno, who injected a dose of spirituality into the world of fitness and created a popular exercise program called intenSati, which became a staple at some Equinox gyms and a presence on YouTube, died on Jan. 22 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 57.
The cause was cervical cancer, her wife, Kellen Mori, said.
Ms. Moreno began teaching workout classes more than two decades ago and founded intenSati in 2002, melding the word “intention” with the Buddhist term “sati,” for mindfulness or awareness. Between bouts of kickboxing and aerobics, she would intersperse refrains like “I am worthy of my own love” or “Everything I need is within me,” adding liberal doses of mindfulness, journaling and other self-help practices.
It was a melding of spirituality and exercise, something relatively new.
Posted online, her workouts and spoken positive mantras — which she termed “affirmations” — drew a sizable following, including 6,500 YouTube subscribers and 18,000 Instagram followers. The program includes more than 1,000 “intenSati Leaders,” who teach their own classes, and has brought in about $5 million in revenue, according to Lucy Osborne, who took over intenSati after Ms. Moreno’s death.
Ms. Moreno’s method resonated with those seeking spiritual and emotional connections to wellness. “People cry in class all the time,” she told Cosmopolitan magazine in 2013. “Whenever I train new intenSati instructors I always tell them, ‘If people are crying, you’re doing your job right.’”
One of those instructors, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, is also a professor of history at the New School in Manhattan and is writing a book about fitness in America. “Today, there are many programs that marry the language of enlightenment with intense exercise,” she said in an email, “but Patricia, who came out of the aerobics world of the 1980s and who was a serious student of yoga and meditation, was very early to integrate the two.”
What sets intenSati apart from other fitness programs, Professor Mehlman Petrzela added, is “its sense of playfulness and presence outside of the luxury, high-end fitness world.” In addition to Equinox clubs, primarily in New York and Los Angeles, intenSati instructors teach at community centers and have made workouts available at no cost on social media.
Danielle Friedman, the author of “Let’s Get Physical: How Women Discovered Exercise and Reshaped the World” (2022), said in an email that Ms. Moreno’s program “helped to shift the language of fitness culture away from one of self-criticism, guilt and shame and toward one of celebration, joy and affirmation.”
Patricia Esperanza Moreno was born on Aug. 14, 1964, in San Jose, Calif., to Jose and Edith (Salcido) Moreno. Her father was a lawyer, and her mother ran a restaurant. She had 10 siblings. After graduating from James Lick High School in San Jose, she took classes at San Jose State University.
Overweight as a child, Ms. Moreno became interested in fitness as a way to manage her weight. She began teaching fitness classes in California in her teens. In the 1990s, she moved to New York City and found work teaching a kickboxing fitness class at a newly opened Equinox gym; she eventually became one of its highest-paid instructors.
A 1995 article about fitness clubs in The New York Times described Ms. Moreno as one of Equinox’s most popular teachers in New York. She “shows up in a flannel shirt, black pants and a white muscle shirt,” the reporter, Jennifer Steinhauer, wrote. “Calling out a few steps here and there, she dances with almost no self-consciousness, as if all the people in her class were guests at a party in her living room and just happened to be wearing Lycra.”
Ms. Moreno and Dr. Mori, a dentist, met in 2006, when Dr. Mori was taking an intenSati class in Manhattan. They married in 2008.
In addition to Dr. Mori, she is survived by her daughters Olivia, Sophie and Stella Moreno-Mori and her siblings Edith Shipton, Denise Gossett, Darsie Marie Moreno, Marilyn Moreno, Norma Moreno-Grimnes, Elizabeth Ziegenhagen, Hector Moreno, Sylvia Rich and Jesse Moreno.
After her diagnosis of Stage 4 cervical cancer, Ms. Moreno continued her intenSati practice and documented her experience on Instagram and other social media platforms, emphasizing the spiritual side of her work.
“This diagnosis and all that’s come along with it,” she wrote on Instagram in September, “is revealing to me how important it is to focus on reconnecting to the broader part of me and not limiting my view of myself as a physical body.”