Watching someone participate in yoga may make you wonder what all the fuss is about. But, if you try it yourself, you might just be surprised. An ancient Buddhist practice, vipassana, or "insight meditation," requires intense meditation to achieve a state of mind that very few can in day-to-day life.

The Insight Meditation Society, based in Massachusetts, describes vipassana as the "simple and direct practice of moment-to-moment mindfulness." Those who do it develop an awareness of the mind-body process that can be led to "accept more fully the pleasure and pain, fear and joy, sadness and happiness that life inevitably brings."

The brain also gets a work out with vipassana. A study recently published in NeuroReport states that researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that certain areas of the outer portion of the brain, or cerebral cortex, are thicker in people who regularly meditate.

They used MRI to get a detailed look at the brains of 20 devoted meditators who had an average of nine years experience meditating about six hours per week. For comparison, they also studied the brains of 15 people who had never meditated.

"Our results suggest that meditation can produce experience-based structural alterations in the brains, " said Sara Lazar, Ph.D, the study's lead author. "We also found evidence that meditation may slow down the aging-related atrophy of certain areas of the brain."

The most fascinating find was that meditation could change anyone's grey matter, regardless of who they are.