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Our Team

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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. 

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.




Rachel Peterson, Studio Manager, 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.  Always at home in a studio, Rachel is excited to be managing and working at Excel.




 Safi Harriott, Front Desk 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 Castaneda, Front Desk Assistant, is new to the DC area. Originally from Boston, she began her Pilates practice 12 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.