So I was told by a PT that he doesn't recommend downward dog to patients becuase in the long run it can over stretch your sciatic nerve. Thoughts on this?
Moving to appropriate forum.
Hello from Robyn Penwell, GM teacher (who also holds a M.S. in Kinesiology and teaches at the university). This is an interesting way to discuss the sciatic nerve, which should be an appropriate length for your build (unless it is abnormally short). The mechanism for burdening the sciatic nerve while stretching muscles is usually tight or shortened muscles unable to stretch comfortably over/around the nerve, putting pressure on it.
I believe most yoga poses can be expressed with less concern when using the natural postural alignment taught in the Gokhale Method. For example, if you kidney bean shape your feet in downward dog, it should guide lower leg and hip alignment, lessening the pressure on the sciatic nerve caused by poor alignment while stretching, but if you point flat feet forward (or in) there could be a problem. If you hip hinge into downward dog with your feet wide enough apart rather than bending from the spine, the sciatic nerve should be protected from the pressures of tight muscles stretching too far or awkwardly. The hip hinging technique we teach will also cue you as to when/at what point in the stretch you need to employ yoga blocks for support. This mindfulness is another safeguard against overstretching of any kind.
I hope this helps answer your question.