It's kind of funny and about what you'd expect when you walk in: there is one of those little running water things sounding constantly, a few plants scattered throughout the room, and then a nice big comfortable chair from which to do all of the assessments.
The lab technician has you watch a ball descend up and down and you are supposed to time you breathing according to the rise, falls, and pauses while your heart rate is being monitored. I think it's kind of hokey, but I also kind of like these things too.
I fully recognize the value of meditation/relaxation exercises, and I love the deep-breathing stuff because it really does help to get myself more centered. All of this is part of why I want to get into yoga more, because while it is a work-out and would help with stress, I kind of like the meditative side to it all. In the lab, the person has you progress from 7.0 breaths a minute down to 4.5. If you're interested in checking it out, you can follow that link above and they have the program that is used for free (30 days) and you can even download the audio files after which you pattern your breathing. Know what's kind of cool? There is a deep-breathing exercise machine that you can now purchase at Costco that is the only thing approved by the FDA that is not some type of drug to help lower your blood pressure. You can find that here. It's just kind of cool.
The technician monitoring me noticed right away that I have a pretty strong heart. Ever since I can remember my resting heart rate is somewhere in the low 50s. Yesterday it clocked in at about 51. What's kind of neat is that your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems turn on and off as you inhale and exhale, so your heart naturally rises and falls with every breath you take. My range spread from 40-70 from inhale to exhale.
My favorite part of the thing was when she was showing me how sensitive the instruments are when measuring heart rate and the waves of the beats. Apparently I have a really great ability to center myself and get my autonomic system regular, but there was one point in the session where she asked if my thoughts had drifted off and I had become distracted. Then she hooked me up to the machine to redo that segment, and then asked me to think about different positive thoughts and then anything that is stressful. My heart rate and breathing then started to bounce all over the place. It was crazy to see how much that psycho-physio stuff really can affect your system.
Anyway, just kind of neat.