“Where the Rope Ends” is a feature length documentary film about Yoga teacher Nichole Doane’s experience on a fateful day when a rope ended and a long road to recovery that ensued. Here’s some of that story, in Nichole’s own words.
I’ve always had endless appreciation for the benefits of Yoga but it wasn’t until I was hanging from a rope, 100 feet off the ground, clinging to the final moments of my life, that I could fully comprehend the actual lifesaving capabilities of a dedicated Yoga practice. It was a warm sunny day in August of 2017, a day known best as the Great American Solar Eclipse. Everyone made special plans for viewing this rare event. I had plans to rappel through an iconic canyon in the Pacific Northwest among wild beauty and inspiring friends. It was a perfect summer day; the kind of day that one consciously ingrains to memory as it’s occurring, knowing well it will be savored again later in life.
We started the hike up the canyon at dawn and reached the summit with perfect timing for the eclipse. The forest fell dark as we snacked on trailmix, gazing up at the majesty of the moon eclipsing the sun. We then put on our wetsuits and our backpacks stuffed with ropes and headed into the canyon. The first 8 rappels were blissful, giggly moments full of delight where I never felt more grateful for being alive. But in one instant, the joy was sucked out of the air to be replaced with sheer terror. I made a fatal mistake that left me hanging 100 feet off the ground, slipping toward what would certainly become a brutal and untimely death.
My eyes darted frantically searching for a way out, my heart leapt into my throat and I floundered helpless to regain control. Clinging as tightly as possible, I began slipping down the rope, watching the skin roll off my hands thinking this is the end. Just when I thought all hope was lost, the lump in my throat instinctively began to give way to a long, deep inhale and a slow, intentional exhale. In that moment, it was as if the terror induced blinders had been stripped off, allowing a broadening of perspective beyond the state of horror I was previously trapped inside. I could now think more clearly and what came to mind was, “If this is my final moment, I don’t want to go out terrified.”
Still clinging and slowly slipping down the rope, I quickly contemplated what truly mattered to me in that moment. I wanted desperately to make an imprint on the universe that could reverberate through time and be felt on my daughter’s wedding day, and on the day she had her own baby; I wanted my daughter to feel my love for her forever. So I closed my eyes and just focused on shooting as much love, every bit I had from now until I was 90 years-old was supposed to come out in that instant. It was the most beautiful moment of my entire life.
When I opened my eyes, bathed in the afterglow of that love, I marveled at the beauty of the rainbows reflecting off the waterfall, the cool mist whirling around and cooling my skin. Suddenly fully present, I saw a ledge over to the side that I couldn’t see when I was spinning out, trapped in terror. I thought maybe if I could make it to that ledge, I might survive. I had just enough strength left to swing myself out over that ledge and then I would have to let go of the rope, and free fall. So without hesitation, I swung myself over the ledge and let go of the rope. I remember saying to myself as I plummeted through the air, “Just let the fall take you, be like water, absorb it all in your core, and don’t hit your head.”
People often ask how I was able to re-center myself and break free of the grip of that terrifying moment. I give full credit to my dedicated Yoga practice for many reasons. Because I had practiced intentionally placing myself in intensity during my daily Yoga practice, the instinctual response to that stimulus was to take a deep breath when it mattered most. Because my body was accustomed to the vagal response that occurs with deep breath work, it recalibrated just as was practiced over and over on the mat.
Because Yoga taught me how use physical sensations like the cool mist on my skin as a gateway back to the present moment, I was able to find it and then find the ledge that ultimately saved my life. Surviving was a stroke of luck, but taking control was not. That was due to a dedicated Yoga practice. And I often think, even if I didn’t find that ledge, even if I wasn’t so lucky that day, Yoga helped me find my way back to love and that is exactly how I want to go out next time!
About the Author & the Documentary:
Nichole Doane has been practicing Yoga for over 14 years. She received her first RYT 200 Yoga instructor certification in 2014 and her second in 2018 while she was recovering from her injuries. Since the accident, Nichole has made it her mission to give back to the volunteer led Search and Rescue organization who got her safely out of the canyon and airlifted her to the very hospital where she works as a trauma nurse.
The film, “Where the Rope Ends,” is Nichole’s gift to Search and Rescue. Help support her goal of giving back by watching and sharing this transformational film. At least 70% of adults in the US will experience trauma during their lives. A large portion of Search and Rescue chapters in the United States and beyond are built almost entirely of volunteers. Many assume this is a service paid for by tax dollars, and are unaware of the sacrifice, training, and heroic acts it takes to be come a member of these teams. “Where the Rope Ends” is partnering with volunteer organizations around the country to use as an awareness, fundraising, and recruitment tool. See the trailer here. Learn more about the film here.
“Where the Rope Ends” is produced and directed by Baylee Sinner, who met Nichole during Yoga teacher training while she was recovering in her wheelchair. Baylee’s work can be seen on her website, www.bayleesinner.com.