Upward dog (Urdva Mukha Svanasana) is a pose that's often rushed through or misaligned, even by experienced practitioners. Here are some things to remember to get the most out of this puppy:
1. Push 10 toenails into the ground.
Connect your toes to the earth and push down through the feet.
2. Firm your thighs.
Imagine your knee caps lifted by the strength of the thigh muscles, or imagine you're sucking up the thigh muscles toward the waist.
3. Engage your lower abs.
Engage the lower abs gently and imagine there is a shelf between your legs, push that shelf up.
4. Keep your wrists under your shoulders then roll back the shoulders.
Roll em back. Roll them back back back. So often people's shoulders hike way up to their ears in upward dog. Roll the shoulders back and down and try to make your neck super long.
5. Look up, but don't let the head flop back.
Keep jalandhara bandha engaged by slightly tucking the chin, even if your head is up. For yoga newbies I wouldn't suggest looking up at all, only forward. If the shoulders are up near your ears and you throw the head back there can be some serious damage to cervical spine. Wait until the rest of your updog alignment is spot on before looking up or back.
6. Open your heart!
Ever seen a dog do this? It's like they are stretching new life into themselves. They press the chest open with their whole soul and you can practically feel the exuberance they emit in this stretch. Do that! Spread your collar bones and think about joy. With each upward facing dog, go to a place that makes you feel cheerful! Breathe in and open your heart to the world.