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Our Team


Lesa McLaughlin, Owner, was certified as a teacher in The Pilates Method of Body
Conditioning by The Pilates Studio in New York in 1995 under the tutelage of Romana Krowsanavska. She received a Gold Certification by the Pilates Method Alliance in 2005. She holds a BFA in Dance from George Mason University (1984) and has taught dance, movement and exercise for over 30 years.
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In 1998, she opened Pilates at Excel Movement Studios (now Excel Pilates DC), a 5,000 square foot Pilates Studio in Washington, DC.  In 2002 she opened a satellite studio in Annapolis, MD. She has worked with clients for 20 years in The Pilates Method Of Body Conditioning. Ranging in age from 13-83, clients have included athletes such as dancers, swimmers, ice skaters, runners, golfers, equestrian jumpers, and body builders, all working to achieve better performance or to gain a competitive edge. Mrs. McLaughlin has also worked with clients to rehabilitate and prevent injury. Conditions and issues have included herniated discs, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, MS, knee surgery prevention, knee and hip replacement and pregnancy.  In 2001 she collaborated with Kerry DeVivo to create and establish a comprehensive Pilates Teacher Training Program at Excel Pilates DC in which she developed the curriculum, program outline, and training manual. Currently, she teaches all system levels as well as continuing education. Lesa McLaughlin's experience is that of a Master teacher.
She considers her strength in teaching to be a deep understanding of the work of Joseph Pilates and helping each client to see, feel and reach their fullest potential. Lesa considers the work of Joseph Pilates to be an inspiration. She has experienced personally the depth and power of the work. She considers her ability to practice and teach Pilates a true privilege. The most satisfying aspect of her Pilates experience is to see daily, through her teaching, the meaningful impact it has on others.




Angela Black, Studio Manager, She was born and raised in Washington DC, and has a B.M. in Vocal Jazz Studies from Howard University.

She has always been involved in the arts from a young age, starting out as a dancer and moving into theatre and vocal performance arts. As philosopher Norman Brown says, "What is always speaking silently is the body"and so she believes that through Pilates, we can be present in our bodies, stay tuned into what it is telling us, and through that live life more abundantly. 







Safi Harriott, Studio Manager Assistant, has been a movement educator since 2009, working in her birthplace of Kingston, Jamaica and in the US. She is a graduate of the Smith College MFA program in performance and choreography. She has also studied at the Laban Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies, and is currently a candidate in the Sociocultural Anthropology MA program at Columbia University. New to Pilates, and a transplant to DC, Safi is excited to join the team at Excel and connect with this community of movers.






Sarah Peterson, Rachel Peterson, Studio Manager Assistant, was born and raised in South Dakota where she grew up spending every day in a studio, dancing since a young age. She moved briefly to Minneapolis for college, before transferring to Hope College in Holland, Michigan, to pursue a B.A. in Dance Performance and Choreography.  After graduating, she spent a year traveling and dancing before accepting an internship at the Kennedy Center and moving to Washington, DC. That same passion for dance easily translated to Pilates when she recently began taking classes.  No matter where she goes, being in a studio has always felt like home.  Rachel is excited to be working at Excel, and plans to train with the goal of obtaining her teacher's certification.  To her, the study movement helps us better understand ourselves, and we can never run out of things to learn.





Sarah Castaneda, Studio Manager Assistant, is new to the DC area, originally from Boston she began her Pilates practice12 years ago while working a busy corporate life and has since been a Pilates aficionado. In 2008 she changed careers and became a yoga teacher and holistic nutritionist and got certified in Level 1 Mat Pilates.She believes that both yoga and Pilates are complimentary disciplines and believes that both are integrative and associated with stress reduction and increased well-being.