STATEN ISLAND, NY – It’s Wednesday in a small storefront studio on a busy section of Amboy Road, and Katerina Babaytseva is deeply involved in a unique hand-pan music workshop. Quiet and calming, with small harp-like sounds vibrating through the Great Kills space, the class is soothing, and its members stressless. The entire room is in sync and connected – each participant has come to Babaytseva to improve his or her well-being.
“This class brings an indescribable feeling of self-healing as the vibrations of the music resemble the vibrations in our own bodies,” Babaytseva said. “You don’t need to know how to play music to participate in this — you can just repeat the sounds you hear and enjoy the amazing cosmic music. The only thing you have to do is lose yourself in the rhythm of it all, de-stress, and enjoy.”
That’s the purpose of Babaytseva’s entire Natural Approach Center, a business which she owns and operates with longtime friend Oksana Smirnova. Full of herbal teas and vitamins, plus handmade soaps and serums that are made to soothe the body and the soul, the retail portion of the shop offers customers a range of holistic products, while the back rooms of the business are filled daily with scheduled healing classes and sessions of yoga and meditation. And the entire concept was born out of the duo’s passion for healthy living.
“I love teas and herbal products and Oksana is a vitamin expert,” explained Babaytseva, who grew up in a holistic household, her father an herbalist. “In January we found this space and decided to pool our talents. This is something we’ve always talked about doing, and suddenly it all just came together.”
The products are personally curated by both Babaytseva and Smirnova, natural remedies chosen to aid digestive struggles, sleep issues, cold and flu and other common ailments. On weekends Babaytseva forages for some of her herbs de ella, shops for others and then combines them: Chamomile, echinacea and elderberry for immunity; ashwagandha, lavender, mint and sarsaparilla for relaxation and anxiety. If you want to detox, there’s burdock root and calendula for that.
“This is not a medical cure, but it is a supplement that will help whatever ails you,” Babaytseva said. “There are herbs to cure a hangover and concoctions that you can sip to relax and boost your immunity. We have it all.”
Natural Approach’s classes are made to improve your quality of life.
“We invite people to our center so they can live a happier and healthier life,” Babaytseva said. “It’s an encouraging environment where people of all ages can connect, learn and improve their well-being.”
The center’s schedule includes classes in Vinyasa and Kundalini yoga, belly dance, numerology, art therapy and sound healing. There’s also a Mandala dance, esoteric school, women’s circles, Reiki, karaoke and more. Birthday parties, girls’ nights out, corporate and team-building events are among Babaytseva’s specialty.
Babaytseva and Smirnova, both of Ukranian descent, also use their center as a collection site where Staten Island residents can drop off food and other essentials for those displaced by the current war in Ukraine.
“My family is currently still living in Ukraine,” Babaytseva said. “They are safe, but I am worried. Our clients have been so generous. We send care packages to them weekly and give as much as we can. This entire business was built around personal healing — it warms my heart that our customers are helping others heal too.”