Inside the Pilates Studio: Junghee Won

Interview with Junghee Won

On October 7, 2009 I received a very exciting email.  Upon her move to Oceanside, CA Junghee Won wrote to introduce herself with the hope of starting to work at my studio. She included a brief outline of her training and experience and my eyes grew wider and wider as I read on. I felt like the luckiest Pilates instructor alive. You had me at Romana 🙂 Now if only I had a studio…

I thought her name sounded familiar and it was only a few days later that I figured out where I had seen her before. Probably many have seen the DVD series from She along with Peter Fiasca, Jamie Trout and others are featured in this pristine Pilates video series.

We met for coffee and have been friends ever since. I was hungry for weekly private lessons and started training with her in her home shortly thereafter. She thought I was only interested in the occasional lesson, but I felt so good and strong after her lessons that I actually remembered why I became a Pilates instructor in the first place. This exercise feels so good! I remembered when I began taking classes at Excel Movement Studios and the time my duet partner didn’t show, resulting in my very first private Pilates lesson. Oh wow – so much more focus and I learned so much – this is the way to go! It all came flooding back to me when I started my lessons with Junghee. She made me do all the stuff that is very challenging for me and she had such a brilliantly simple way of answering my questions. She introduced me to a wonderful quote from Albert Einstein: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
‘Nuff said.

Junghee now lives in the New York area and although I dearly miss having her so close in California, she is happily kicking lots of popos at New Jersey’s Can Do Fitness.

Click here to read Junghee’s Interview in Korean.

1. What is your favorite Pilates exercise and why?

Junghee Won: Roll Up, Open Leg Rocker, Teaser, Neck Roll on the Mat. The Roll Up makes me strengthen my powerhouse and mobilizes and stretches my spine. This makes me feel so good and then I feel like I’m ready to move on to the next exercise.  Open Leg Rocker reminds me to find the center again and balance in a seated position and gives me the focus that I love to feel.  The Teaser challenges me to lift my center and use the whole body connection from head to toe which I enjoy so much. After all that, the Neck Roll is important to me to strengthen my back and anteriorly stretch my entire body which I can really feel.  Rolling my neck is like a moment of break time while holding in the powerhouse enjoying the feeling of stretching my neck all around.
I love Foot work, Coordination, Pulling straps, Short Box series, Semi Circle, Chest Expansion, Thigh Stretch, Up Stretch, Knees Off.
I can’t stop talking about my favorite exercises on each apparatus. I was thinking about how these exercises are related and why I love them. I found my answer which is simply that these exercises enable the flexion and extension of my entire body. So, I have to say all Pilates exercises are equally so wonderful to me.  But if I have to choose one, it would be Semi Circle or Snake/Twist on the Reformer. Semi Circle is an opening of the hips and chest more aggressively with deep opening of the spinal column. Snake/Twist has even more challenge of strength and control.  I still remember when I learned Snake/Twist the first time, I was so excited to learn it even more than any others.  I guess I love very challenging exercises because of my dance background and because then I feel much stronger and more expressive with my body. 

2. What exercise is your least favorite? Pick only one.

JW: Honestly, none!  But, I hated Rolling Like A Ball in the past.  I know why I hated it. I wasn’t so good at it and I’m still not good at it.  My spine is very flat.  Especially my lumbar spine is not so good in flexion.  When I learned Rolling Like A Ball the first time, I couldn’t do it at all but I got better and better.  It took time to open up my lumbar and I later I could enjoy this exercise.  What a wonderful feeling of massaging the spine on the Mat!  
I have realized there is a limitation in every single body. I’m not talking about injuries. Some people have longer fingers.  My spine has less mobility in flexion which wouldn’t be fixed ever because of structural matter.  But I have gotten better flexion than before.

3. What turns you on creatively, mentally or physically about the Pilates method?

JW: Routine, deep work on my body, flowing movement with many different types of elements, and extremely strong muscle action.  After all these work, I really feel my body / mind is so relaxed and very satisfied.  I was a strong dancer and have tried many other exercises and movement methods.  I had chances to learn other methods in the school I attended.  I wasn’t just a dancer.  I have three Dance Education degrees.   The Pilates method is the only one that is so clear and makes so much sense to me. I feel so good after the practice.  This is the reason I do Pilates.

4.What is your idea of earthly happiness?

JW: Through life lessons and what I have experienced.  I remember a part of the book the Talmud.  Three people A, B and C are traveling together.  One of these three will have two teachers among them.  One is good to learn and the other is not good to learn.  It doesn’t matter good or bad.  One will get always the lesson.

5. What to your mind would be the greatest misfortune?

JW: I don’t believe in misfortune.  It is all about your choices.  You have to take responsibility for that and turn it into your purpose.  I understand there is always an exception.

6. What is your favorite Pilates word?

JW: “It is the spirit that builds the body.” Schiller

7. What is your least favorite Pilates word?

JW: “Now what?”  People have to be more proactive than passive in work, thinking, and even in their workouts.  “Now what?” is very impatient. It is you expecting someone do the work for you.

8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

JW: SURGEON!!!  Because I like blood and I’m good with that.

9. If Heaven exists, and by some chance when you arrive at the pearly gates Joseph Pilates is also there, what would you like to hear him say to you?

JW: “Well done, Junghee!”

10. What did you learn today?

JW: It sounds like a question from Romana when I was an apprentice under her.  Romana asked apprentices this question every day before she left the studio.  I was always trying to prepare to answer her question.  Every single day, I learned many different things from teaching, practicing, watching, reading, and communicating with people.  It’s all about observation and interaction.  You will see stuff when you pay a little more attention in daily life.

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Andrea Maida

Andrea Maida

A native of Pittsburgh, Andrea began her study of the Pilates method in 2000. She holds two comprehensive certifications from Romana’s Pilates in New York and Excel Movement Studios in Washington, DC.  Andrea continues to study with numerous world-class instructors including Romana Kryzanowska, Jay Grimes, Sari Mejia-Santo, Junghee Kallander, Cynthia Lochard, and Kathryn Ross-Nash whenever possible. Andrea was privileged to be in the inaugural class of The Work at Vintage Pilates under the direction of Jay Grimes, 1st Generation Master Teacher and student of Joseph Pilates.

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