Chanukia, the Candle Holder Lesson

Mostly in back-lying, knees bent. Using a precise configuration of the shoulders and elbows to mobilize and build awareness of movements and relationships of the shoulders, shoulder blades, clavicles, sternum, spine, head, pelvis, and the whole rib structure.

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Before you begin read this for practical tips and your responsibilities, and check out Comfort & Configuration below.

Recorded live in a Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) class, this lesson is copyright Nick Strauss-Klein, for personal use only.

Tip – what to wear

Study tip: Wear loose, comfortable clothes that are warm enough for quiet movement. Remove or avoid anything restrictive like belts or glasses.

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Tip 1 – Interrupted?

Study tip: Interrupted or don’t have enough time? You can return to the lesson later today or tomorrow. Read how best to continue your learning on our FAQ page.

Tip – Directions are Relative

Study tip: Directions are always relative to your body. For example, if you’re lying on your back “up” is toward your head, and “forward” is toward the ceiling.

Tip 5 – Discomfort

Study tip: If a configuration or movement causes any increase in discomfort, or you feel you just don’t want to do it, don’t! Make it smaller and slower, adapt it, or rest and imagine.

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Tip – LESSS is more

LESSS is more: Light, Easy, Small, Slow, & Smooth movements will ease pains and improve your underlying neuromuscular habits faster than any other kind of movement, no matter who you are or what your training is!

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Tip – Complete the Movement

Study tip: Complete one movement before beginning the next. You’ll improve faster if there’s enough time between movements that you feel fully at rest.

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As you first begin to tip your “candelabra” toward the floor near your head, the instruction “knuckles to the floor” is only a direction. It is not necessary that your knuckles touch or even get close to the floor. Just do what’s comfortable, which may also be different for each arm.

In case it’s confusing, the basic home position for most of the movements of this lesson, described as “standing up your candelabra,” or “candle sticks,” is:

  • lying on your back, knees bent, feet standing,
  • upper arms laying on the floor straight out to the side from the shoulders (perpendicular to your spine, 90 degree angles at your armpits),
  • elbows bent 90 degrees so that your forearms and hands are standing in the vertical, plumb with gravity (standing up in the room, perpendicular to the floor).
  • then most of the movements involve maintaining the 90 degree angles at the armpits and elbows, and tipping the forearms and hands (the “candle sticks”) toward the ground, either by your head or by your waist.

Starting at 37 minutes, a movement is described where students go from the standing candle sticks described above into arms lengthened straight out to the sides (still roughly perpendicular to the length of the body) but twisting in opposite directions. This results in both arms being rotated on their axes, in opposite directions, one as if rolled up (headward) on the mat, and the other as if rolled down (footward) on the mat. If in this position the two arms are thought of as a whole, it’s like twisting a towel from the ends in opposite directions to wring it dry. Like so:

For experienced students: Directly from Moshe Feldenkrais’s teaching of this lesson, here is the step that was mentioned at the end, though we decided not to do it in the recorded lesson because there had already been so much change and improvement, and kneeling was fatiguing the students. In the Alexander Yanai lesson transcription/translation it comes right before the final step (in my recording) of rolling the head with the chin traveling as much as the nose and forehead.

In the configuration of kneeling with one foot standing, one knee on the floor, twisting the arms in opposite directions (starts around 53:30; you could do the following step after the recorded one).

  • “While your arm turns up, bend your head and move it under your arm…. Your face and head go under the arm that turns upward…. Move as if you needed to look under your armpit.”
  • “Bend your whole body and head forward until you can turn your head under the armpit. Look behind you from underneath your armpit.”
  • Switch your legs over to the opposite configuration and try it again.

This lesson is found in our Freeing the Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck collection and our Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders Deep Dive course.

Like most of our lessons, this one can be studied out of context, but you may find additional learning value by approaching it in the order of the collection or Deep Dive it’s in.

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  1. Jan Penney on December 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Just finished this class in my home. I had my IPad laying above my head and it was as if I was in the studio at JCC. So easy to follow your soothing and instructional voice. Cannot wait to “hold” class with my sister when we are together in Febraury in Florida. She is a survivor of two new hips and one knee; what fun to introduce her to this method.

  2. Nick Strauss-Klein on December 21, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Awesome! So pleased to hear how you’re using the lesson recordings.

  3. Abby on January 25, 2016 at 6:29 am

    I really enjoyed the lesson in my home in Cambridge uk! Very nice pace and imagery.

  4. Lucy Forryan on July 20, 2017 at 5:11 am

    I just did this lesson at home on my firm bed and on the floor for standing. Thank you for the audio lessons ?
    This is the first time I have heard of Feldenkrais exercises.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 20, 2017 at 9:40 am

      Welcome to Feldenkrais! It’s fantastic that you’re diving in. Happy studies, and please reach out to me if you have any questions.

  5. brigette on August 27, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Hi Nick,
    I just did this lesson and I’m so curious about how it felt like it was also releasing something in my buttocks. I found myself wanting to reach out my left glute to an easier position.
    As always, these lessons are amazing.

    Thank YOU!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 28, 2017 at 9:34 am

      You’re welcome! It’s always remarkable how lessons speak to each student uniquely. You may even find if you repeat the lesson at a later date that you’ll notice other changes in yourself.

  6. Ray on September 24, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Thank you Nick for including me, far away in Israel, in this game you play with such pleasure and grace

  7. Erzhi on January 1, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    What a joyful and playful way of learning and refining oneself! It is a great pleasure to do ATM-s with you, Nick. Thank you so much for this incredible opportunity!

  8. maria on January 3, 2018 at 3:07 am

    I loved it, you’re a great instructor!

  9. Sujata Varma on December 10, 2018 at 6:22 am

    Thank you so much for all your great lessons including this one. All of them are bringing about wonderful changes in the body and mind. Nice to be able to move with grace and flexibility. At almost seventy years of age, I walk better and sit better and have no difficulty with bending and stooping and taking care of my six cats. I still work part time and in the last three years of doing these lessons I have also become very creative, doing a lot of drawing and painting. Wonder if Feldenkrais has something to do with all these changes. Thank you again and wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on December 16, 2018 at 10:09 am

      Thanks so much for sharing this, Sujata! I’m very glad you’re using my lessons. Many people, myself included, find that creative pursuits expand beautifully with the improved state of the nervous system that comes with Feldenkrais study. I believe it has to do with a kind of ease and efficiency for the nervous system. Resources that were holding on to unnecessary efforts are free to create instead!

  10. Lisanne on April 23, 2019 at 12:00 am

    I have had persistent shoulder/rotator cuff issues for many years. This lesson was amazing for me!! My arms felt so much longer afterward. I did have some pain afterward (it was a long lesson, but maybe all of yours are?), but it was gone by the next morning. Anyway, Thank you! My brain needed to learn how to release that area. Giving up old habits is hard!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on April 23, 2019 at 1:56 pm

      Glad to hear you discovered some things about yourself. It’s a challenging lesson to do small enough to be comfortable with it for the whole hour. If/when the time comes to try it again, see what happens if you stay a little further from the ends of your range of motion for each movement. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that you can create similar or even more pleasant change afterwards, without (or with less) of the brief pain.

      It’s true my lessons are often long, currently mostly an hour. You can break them up as needed: please read the FAQ page about this. And, we’re looking to publish some shorter lessons later this year.

  11. chris andersen on January 31, 2020 at 11:49 am

    As I start my fifth repeat of this lesson, I wanted to say thank you. Whatever this does to my upper trapezius trigger point area is more than years of physical therapy, drying needling, pilates, yoga, etc. has accomplished. I also really enjoy returning to lessons over and over. I am not sure whether it is my poor memory or good imagination, but each repeat seems different!

  12. Andrea on April 3, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    I would love a visual on the twisting of the arms when sitting, that totally got me lost. It’s me, not you, but a visual would help

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on October 17, 2022 at 4:44 pm

      It is really a lot like the twisting while lying down. A picture is in the Clarifications tab.

  13. Karin on July 25, 2020 at 5:54 am

    Wow! This is one of the best online Feldenkrais sessions I have experienced, thank you Nick. I love how you held the space with playfulness and curiosity as well as focus. Your invitations to the movements worked well for me and just 15 mins in I felt tension release and more fluidity. I’ve been engaged with Feldenkrais lessons for three years now and they have totally changed my body and mind flow, ease and ability. Thank you from Devon, England 🙂

  14. Louise on August 16, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Nick – you’re a fantastic teacher. The lesson is clear, well paced, inspiring and comforting. Wondrous, magical release for the upper body.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on August 16, 2020 at 5:34 pm

      Thanks, and thank you for your financial support! This lesson is a particular favorite among listeners – it’s such a fun image to explore. Enjoy and please share this and all our other free resources!

  15. Susan Mayer on May 11, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    Love this lesson. Held the image of Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast in my mind. Love the invitation to find gracefulness in my movements. Among so many gifts, Feldenkrais is helping me to find my inner dancer.

  16. shan shnookal on August 15, 2021 at 2:55 am

    A lovely lesson. I feel as though all joints in my body have been oiled!

    • Katherine Bruell on October 8, 2023 at 8:50 pm


  17. William Weiss on October 26, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    Wonderful lesson, thank you. I’m not sure about ‘twist’ and ‘twisting’ the forearm. In one instance I turned the forearm a quarter circle before lifting it vertical to the floor. In the second example it seemed to be about lifting the arm while kneeling. Could you clarify?

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on November 2, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      Are you talking about later in the lesson when the arms are straight, and you “wring them like a towel”? In both the arm is more or less parallel with the floor throughout the movement, not vertical. Did you catch the photo in the Clarifications tab? Let me know if that doesn’t clear it up.

  18. Julia Frances on June 28, 2022 at 10:08 am

    Thank you for your generous teaching and this beautifully paced lesson. I have a query following Your instruction to lift the pelvis by pressing through the feet : may I ask if there is a specific way one should do it? i.e I found I could lift my pelvis by curling the coccyx up towards my nose (as it were ) so the “pressure” / grounding rides up towards the head, or by sending the knees towards the feet which tends to pull the spine down towards the feet between the shoulders. With all good wishes,

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on June 28, 2022 at 12:37 pm

      You can experiment and see what helps the Chanukia tipping upward the most. In this teaching of Chanukia that detail is not specified because the purpose of lifting the pelvis is mostly about pouring the weight up to the shoulders and rotating the chest upward.

      I have a follow-up lesson for Feldenkrais Project Patrons called “Beard Pull” Pecking, with Chanukia (Patrons) in which what you describe is explored and harnessed: sending the knees toward the feet, pulling the spine down the mat.

  19. Jean Pierre Dagenais on July 6, 2022 at 4:16 pm

    I have been doing Feldenkrais lessons for over six months. More specifically, I have done the Candle Holder Lesson almost every day for two months. Today I felt, for the first time, my middle and lower ribs on the floor; what a relief ! My chest felt like a barrel full of air. My back muscles have started to relax … finally. Thank you so much.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on July 11, 2022 at 12:09 pm

      Sounds like a great change! That’s an amazing amount of time spent on one lesson. How have you been able to keep it “fresh”? Typically if a lesson, even one that’s very valuable to us, gets a little “rote” or repetitive we’ll actually learn faster by exploring other lessons then coming back to it again sometime later. But maybe you found a way to revisit it for two months that kept it new?

  20. Fern on February 24, 2023 at 10:03 am

    I have a thoracic levoscoliosis and have for the last 5 months been experiencing terrible right shoulder pain which interferes with my ability to stand etc.This lesson is my life saver.

  21. Katherine on October 8, 2023 at 8:52 pm

    This might be the first Feldenkrais lesson where I have laughed out loud–specifically when the floor was providing me feedback about how wrong I was about my hands and elbows being in synch! What a great lesson. Who needs a massage when you can have this feeling in your shoulders!

  22. Sara on January 18, 2024 at 12:11 pm

    Wonderful self-massage for the upper body – squeezing out a towel. I also found the chin vs forehead focus at the end was incredible for enhancing the sensation of a full spinal twist.

  23. Amira Eisa on March 22, 2024 at 9:30 pm

    Wow! I’ve had this lesson saved to check out at some point, but was a little intimidated to try it as it’s marked as ‘more challenging’. Today was the day I gave it a go and I’m amazed at the openness in my chest and upper ribs ! What normally feels stuck and immobile has more fluidity and ease. I tried one of your Feldenkrais lessons a little over a month ago and two days after that lesson I was carrying a heavy bag of groceries to the bus stop and noticed how bunched up my shoulders were (close to my ears). I wondered if there was a better way to carry the weight and felt myself relaxing my neck and clavicle and instead used my upper/mid back to stabilize the weight in what felt like a more natural and enjoyable use of my body. I was (and still am) impressed at what awareness and curiosity can bring to everyday movements and ways of being. Thank you so much for sharing these lessons online! I’m already noticing deep changes and I always look forward to checking out a new lesson!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on March 24, 2024 at 6:24 am

      Thanks for this wonderful description of your self-discovery process! It’s hard to put these kinds of changes, noticings, and awareness into words. I think yours will inspire others!

  24. Sarah on May 13, 2024 at 7:00 am

    I stopped the lesson after the lifting of the head got involved in moving the chandelier downwards. There is too much strain in my neck and shoulder. Instead of doing the lesson of the day, I will follow the order of the Freeing Your Spine, Chest, Shoulders, and Neck collection for a while. This is the first ever lesson I had to stop, because I didn’t know how or where to reduce the tension.

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on May 13, 2024 at 11:36 am

      That’s great – it is important to be willing to stop a lesson when you are stuck straining and can’t find a comfortable way to explore. Exploring that collection is a good plan, and you may also value our Jaw, Neck, and Shoulders Deep Dive.

  25. Louise Ssteinman on May 28, 2024 at 12:45 pm

    Nick, when we start extending the arms in candelabra (about 45 min or so), i’m also letting my pelvis roll from side to side, which feels good. no instruction i heard about keeping pelvis still. thoughts? my shoulders thank you!

    • Nick Strauss-Klein on May 28, 2024 at 2:54 pm

      Sounds good! In these lessons, if you’re not explicitly asked not to move something, then you’re invited to include it any way that you enjoy!

      • Louise Steinman on May 28, 2024 at 2:57 pm

        thanks Nick… also thanks for advice on stopping and starting if need be, time-wise. observing the minute mark, then resuming with a scan.

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